Sarasota County Public Works traffic engineering staff asked Sarasota County commissioners Oct. 9 for $10,000 of shrubbery for the roundabout at Jacaranda Boulevard and Venice Avenue, in Venice. The four proposed plants would break up drivers’ views and redirect them to oncoming traffic from the left, staff explained.
Public Works staff proposed shrubbery designed to withstand some damage from vehicles and a new irrigation method to handle the load of plant life. County watering trucks sprayed the trees currently standing as they grew to be self-sufficient but asked to build a well to support any new bushes and turf. Commissioners suggested looking into drought-resistant plants.
“Obviously, the logic is that we shouldn’t be suggesting plants that we can’t water, because they’re going to die,” Commissioner Joe Barbetta said.
The proposed plan calls for grass lining the outer edge of the roundabout island, which would require mowing — a sore spot for county staff and commissioners, who have received criticism for unkempt medians this year. The contractor would also face a dangerous situation while completely surrounded by traffic, Barbetta said.
If the county chose to follow the city of Sarasota’s reuse watering option for median landscaping, it would cost about $30,000, traffic engineering staff member Drake Odum said.
“We’re trying to encourage the whole world not to water, so that’s why it got the reaction it did,” County Commissioner Nora Patterson said.
The maintenance plan was tabled for later discussions, but the issue could surface again as the county begins construction on three more proposed two-lane roundabouts on Bee Ridge Road, east of the interstate.
County staff opened one lane of the circular intersection at Jacaranda and Venice Avenue in March 2011 during construction, and the roundabout was finished eight months later. Commission Chairwoman Christine Robinson said during the meeting complaints about navigating the circle rolled in after the second lane was opened.
“The complaints haven’t stopped,” Robinson said.
The crash rate has increased by 2 cars for every million that enter the improved intersection. But, Odum said that the uptick in vehicle crashes is typical for a new roundabout.
The same happened after the city of Clearwater installed a two-lane roundabout at an intersection, and crashes nearly halved from the year it opened to the next.
“Roundabouts will continue to be a growing trend throughout the state of Florida,” Odum explained. And the Florida Department of Transportation offers funding toward construction of the traffic-calming devices.