County Commissioner Nora Patterson has been mulling the idea for years.
Her idea: Transform the busy intersection at Stickney Point Road and U.S. 41 into a beautiful gateway to Siesta Key.
That transformation would take place in the form of a roundabout.
“Visually, it would be a nice entry to the Key,” Patterson said.
Before she would propose a roundabout at that intersection, Patterson wants to see how well the Venice roundabout at Jacaranda Boulevard and Venice Avenue operates. It is expected to be complete in May.
“It hinges on how well that works,” she said.
Patterson wants to see how traffic moves through that roundabout and how drivers react to it before officially proposing a roundabout at Stickney Point Road, because Jacaranda is a busy intersection, although it does not see nearly as much traffic as the Siesta Key gateway.
In 2009, the Stickney Point Road and U.S. 41 intersection was the third most-congested intersection in the county, with more than 70,000 cars traveling through it each day.
Jacaranda Boulevard and Venice Avenue is the 72nd busiest intersection, with about 36,500 cars per day.
One question Patterson has is whether U.S. 41’s six lanes of traffic would run smoothly through a roundabout. Such a roundabout would have three lanes, as opposed to the two lanes at Jacaranda or the one lane at Five Points in downtown Sarasota.
A Federal Highway Administration study on three-lane roundabouts found that drivers are more likely to change lanes in a three-lane roundabout than those with two or one lanes. Changing lanes in a roundabout leads to more accidents.
But the study cited three-lane roundabouts in Michigan that had overhead signs, instead of ground signs, were able to keep drivers in their lanes better and reduced collisions.
“There’s also a big roundabout in Clearwater that leads to the beach that functions quite well,” she said.
That Clearwater roundabout has two lanes and carries about 58,000 cars per day.
The commissioner believes a roundabout would also alleviate congestion leaving the Key, because traffic would no longer have to stop at a light at U.S. 41.
“I know some people will think I’ve gone off my rocker,” Patterson joked. “Some people will be leery, but I don’t think we should throw away the idea.”
Jacaranda Boulevard roundabout
Construction began in August on the roundabout at Jacaranda Boulevard and Venice Avenue, in Venice. It’s expected to be complete in May. It will feature two lanes of traffic through the circle, landscaping in the middle, decorative lighting and sidewalks circumnavigating the roundabout.
Contact Robin Roy at [email protected]