Traffic safety on Midnight Pass Road is a consistent topic at Siesta Key Association meetings.
The Florida Department of Transportation is in talks with Sarasota County that could take some bureaucratic hurdles out of the way of lowering the speed limit or adding more signage, according to FDOT spokeswoman Debbie Tower.
Sarasota County Engineer Jim Harriott, in an email to County Administrator Randall Reid, said County Commission Chairwoman Christine Robinson should expect requests from FDOT for the county to take over jurisdiction of Midnight Pass Road.
“It makes sense because it’s a non-connected state road,” said Sarasota County Traffic Engineering staff member Ryan Montague. The city of Sarasota has jurisdiction of Siesta Drive, and the county maintains Stickney Point west of the south Siesta bridge.
The state may also request the county maintain the flashing sign at the curve near the intersection of the state road and Shadow Lawn Way.
“That would lower their expenses and raise ours, so I can understand why they would want to do it,” said County Commissioner Nora Patterson, who lives on the north end of Siesta.
The state will spend roughly $1.8 million maintaining Sarasota County roadways this year, according to a list of current projects on FDOT’s website. It will also spend about $300,000 for street-lighting maintenance and $145,000 to reimburse the county for traffic signal operating and installation costs.
The state oversees mowing and litter maintenance at a rate of roughly $15,000 countywide.
Midnight Pass Road would fall under the county’s north urban mowing zone, which the county had to split three ways after the failure of a single part-time contractor. The county’s field services and purchasing departments are still working on a plan to hire a long-term landscaping firm and have hired 10 employees to bring the zone back to its normal mowing service.
“We have had informal conversations about this roadway, and there is some interest locally to make changes to the road,” Tower said.
The Siesta Key Association has supported lowering the speed limit on Midnight Pass Road and spearheaded the effort to place six digital, radar, speed-limit signs, two of which are on Midnight Pass Road, on the island.
Those efforts concur with residents near the Shadow Lawn intersection, who raised the issue after the death of Donna Chen, who was struck and killed by a drunk driver while jogging.
Patterson, who in the past has supported decisions to decrease speed limits on the road, said she recently changed her position, based on the fact that if the speed limit is lowered golf carts can legally operate on roads with limits less than 40 miles per hour.
All types of low-speed electric vehicles would be able to take a direct route from the Stickney Point Bridge to the north bridge if the county decreased the speed limit on Midnight Pass Road from its intersection with Beach Road north to Higel Avenue, instead of traveling through the Village.
“A lot of people live on Siesta Key, not as a resort, as their home, and they go to work every day, and they like to be able to drive a half-way normal speed,” Patterson said.