Saying studies do not justify a change, the Florida Department of Transportation has denied a request by the Sarasota County Commission, the Siesta Key Condominium Council and the Siesta Key Association, requesting a lower speed limit on a one-mile segment of Midnight Pass Road.
Nonetheless, Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson, who lives on the Key, is not willing to give up the fight. She told the Pelican Press this week that she plans to discuss the matter with the new secretary for FDOT’s District 1, which includes Sarasota County.
Although the County Commission received the notification of FDOT’s decision in a Jan. 4 letter, word about the news began spreading around the Key last week.
In a Dec. 15 letter to District 1 Secretary Billy Hattaway, the Sarasota County Commission asked FDOT to “give favorable consideration to lowering the speed limit (on part of) Midnight Pass Road from 35 mph to 30 mph. The request came at the urging of the Condo Council, which has been focused on FDOT’s effort to improve pedestrian safety along the same stretch of road, between the Beach Road and Stickney Point Road intersections.
The Dec. 15 County Commission letter also had asked FDOT to approve an option its engineers had proposed for pedestrian safety, marked islands in the center turn lane at four locations, without any paddle signs alerting drivers to watch out for pedestrians trying to cross the road.
In its response to the County Commission regarding the speed limit, Hattaway wrote, “We performed speed studies along the (Midnight Pass Road) segment in October in response to a request from the Siesta Key Condominium Council. The results of the studies showed the 35 mph posted speed limit is justified for the corridor. As such, I cannot support reduction of the speed limit at this time.”
However, Hattaway added, “We will continue monitoring the operating speeds along the segment.”
“I’m disappointed that they will not (lower the speed limit),” Patterson said Monday. “There is a lot of traffic in that area. I think it would have been appropriate to lower the speed limit, and I will have a conversation (with Hattaway) to see if there is any room for reconsideration.”
Walt Olson, vice president of the Condo Council, has remained adamant that the lowered speed limit is critical to the safety of people attempting to cross the road. He and his wife performed experiments in crossing about a year ago during season, near Siesta Public Beach.
“At 30 mph,” he said, “it’s easier for people to stop (for pedestrians).”
Last fall, at the request of the Condo Council, the County Commission approved the reduction of the speed limit from 35 mph to 30 mph on Beach Road between the Midnight Pass Road and Ocean Boulevard intersections. The new speed-limit signs went up in late December.
Olson said he not only would like to see the speed limit lowered on the portion of Midnight Pass Road between the Stickney Point Road and Beach Road intersections, but he also would like to see that speed limit extended through the curve on Midnight Pass Road in the vicinity of St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church, where runner Donna Chen was struck and killed last month by an allegedly drunk driver.