The Florida Department of Transportation is seeking public input on a project designed to improve pedestrian safety on Bee Ridge Road.
The state agency is proposing a series of pedestrian islands along a section of Bee Ridge Road, in an effort to cut down on the number of pedestrian and cyclist accidents in the area.
FDOT will be holding a public hearing May 1 to unveil its plans. The 12 raised medians are planned to line the center of Bee Ridge Road from the intersection with U.S. 41 to Dunn Drive. The $454,400 project will also include upgrades to pedestrian signalization along the road, as well as repairs to sidewalks and other safety improvements. Bee Ridge Road is a state road and, therefore, under the jurisdiction of FDOT.
Pedestrian islands are used as a safety refuge for pedestrians crossing busy multi-lane streets outside of crosswalks at intersections.
The Bee Ridge pedestrian-island project is one of a series of FDOT projects intended to improve pedestrian safety in Sarasota County.
According to FDOT Public Affairs Officer Robin Stublen, from Jan. 1, 2008, to Dec. 31, 2012, there were 61 crashes involving pedestrians or cyclists, including two fatalities, on the section of Bee Ridge Road from U.S. 41 to Dunn Drive.
Some Sarasota County staff say they have been caught off guard by FDOT’s recent moves to improve pedestrian safety, including the recently rescinded “no right on red” at Stickney Point and Midnight Pass and the proposed Beach Road/Midnight Pass Road roundabout.
On April 10, County Commissioner Nora Patterson wrote an email to FDOT Director of Transportation Development Chris Smith requesting more information.
“Could the county get copies of what you are planning?” Patterson wrote. “This is the first that I have heard of this, and I represent the district.”
Stublen, however, said FDOT officials had contacted Sarasota County Public Works staff last summer about the Bee Ridge Road pedestrian-island project.
“We’re not hiding anything,” Stublen said, adding that FDOT staff has been holding meetings with businesses along Bee Ridge Road during the past few weeks.
County Public Works Director Jim Harriott expressed misgivings about the utility of the medians and cautioned that although it was an FDOT project, the county would likely have to pick up the tab for maintenance, with some state reimbursement.
“I am not at all adverse to mid-block crossings, but having them on Bee Ridge seems out of place,” Harriott wrote in an April 17 email to Patterson. “I guess it is an improvement over no islands, but that is still an uncontrolled crossing point spanning over 36 feet of high-speed traffic.”
Stublen, however, said pedestrian islands were a proven way to increase pedestrian safety and reduce the rate of accidents. He said pedestrian islands create a legal crossing for pedestrians, even if they do not correspond with an intersection.
Draft design plans are available for public review from April 15 through May 15, at the Fruitville Public Library, 100 Coburn Road, Sarasota. FDOT is also mailing information about the project to all property owners within 300 feet of Bee Ridge Road.
Residents can discuss the project and provide comments to FDOT representatives during a town hall-style meeting May 1, at Trinity United Methodist Church.
If You Go
FDOT public presentation on Bee Ridge Road pedestrian “refuge islands” — 5 p.m. May 1, Trinity United Methodist Church, 4150 S. Shade Ave., Sarasota.
Contact Nolan Peterson at [email protected]