SARASOTA, Fla. -- With 30 days until the long awaited Mall at University Town Center opens, talks of increased traffic are rising once again. And now plans to handle traffic gridlock are emerging.
Traffic on University Parkway at I-75 has been the primary concern since construction on the mall began, and that's what brought together mall management, law enforcement, and several other agencies to find a solution.
"It's bad enough as it is, especially around the holidays. I believe this year it's going to be horrible. They really need to do something about it," says one area resident.
While the community continues to express their fears about more congestion, Tuesday morning, mall management, FDOT, FHP, local law enforcement, and Sarasota County Area Transit met to finalize a year-long plan addressing the problem.
"The meeting today was very positive. Everybody is willing to work a solution to make it work. There's a lot of visibility," says Rick Ferris, operations manager for SCAT.
In anticipation of heavy traffic, during the 4-day grand opening event, Sarasota County Transit Officials plan to temporarily re-route buses on routes 15 and 30 around the most congested area near the new mall.
That’s something they're thinking about continuing through the holiday season. "Both buses will converge on DeSoto (Road) and Honore (Avenue) intersection, there's a nice little circle there. Buses will pull in there. Drop off, pick up, and depart."
While SCAT does their part to alleviate congestion on Cattlemen Road, the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office plans to place deputies in the area, guiding traffic, and providing increased security.
Along with their own security, mall management has plans to hire off-duty deputies as well.
To communicate with shoppers headed to the new mall at UTC, FDOT is allowing the mall to place an increased number of digital message boards along Interstate 75 and main roads, including University Parkway, Fruitville Road, and State Road 70 to alert drivers of possible delays.
Law enforcement is also working with traffic operations in both counties, where the departments will control the traffic signal timing.
So be on the lookout for those message boards when you make your way out to the 4-day grand opening event. Doors officially open on October 16th, but there will be a big sneak preview event held the night before.