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Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Sunday, February 3, 2013
Ragnar Relay issues mulled

State transportation and Monroe County sheriff's officials have raised several concerns about last month's Ragnar Relay along U.S. 1, but they are not ready to give up on the annual event.

Both the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and Sheriff's Office have heard complaints from Florida Keys residents about the many plastic water bottles left behind and traffic congestion in the area from Ramrod Key to Sugarloaf Key.

They will meet Friday to discuss and maybe solve the Lower Keys residents' issues.

Sheriff's officials are already proposing no left turns across U.S. 1 during that time, Sheriff's Capt. Gene Thompson said.

They also suggest that support vehicles be "clearly marked," he added.

Thompson acknowledged that water bottles and other trash was left behind the day of the race, as runners and their support teams were busy racing down the Keys, but said event organizers cleaned it up within 48 hours.

"They did really well," Thompson said of the cleanup. "We are not kicking them out. We want to make sure the traffic doesn't clog and the trash is picked up. We understand the relay provides an economic benefit to the Lower Keys."

Relay organizers did not return repeated phone and email messages left on Friday.

Thompson has been talking to the organizers and said they are working with the Sheriff's Office on solutions.

He said participants, not just the organizers, need to be aware of the issues and requirements of the Sheriff's Office and FDOT.

"Each year, we have to make adjustments," Thompson said.

The Ragnar Relay is a 200-mile running relay race from Miami to Key West.

The annual event is scheduled during one of the Keys' busiest times, as both tourists and winter residents generally arrive in late December and early January.

Last year, the relay backed up traffic on U.S. 1 for miles and hours.

The relay teams' support vans, often driving alongside runners on the two-lane highway, caused traffic jams by slowing down to cheer on and communicate with runners.

This year, the Sheriff's Office required organizers to disqualify runners if their support teams slowed down to talk with participants or backed up traffic.

tohara@keysnews.com

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