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A Sarasota County diagram shows plans for bus stops and a roundabout on Siesta Drive. Courtesy rendering.
Siesta Key Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011 3 years ago

Siesta Drive roundabout plans to affect SCAT stops by mall

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by: Rachel Brown Hackney Managing Editor
 

With planning still in the design phase, the Sarasota City Commission Jan. 3 is scheduled to discuss an interlocal agreement with Sarasota County involving changes planned for Siesta Drive, including a roundabout.

The matter will come back to the County Commission after the city’s action, Sarah Blanchard, a planner in the Sarasota County Area Transit office, said Monday.

Part of the interlocal agreement includes the construction of a SCAT stop on the north side of Siesta Drive, on city right of way, Blanchard said.

Ryan Chapdelain, chief planner for the city, said Tuesday plans call for the construction of the roundabout to be completed by July 2013. The $520,000 project, which is being funded by the Florida Department of Transportation, has been designed to improve traffic flow and pedestrian safety in the area of Westfield Southgate Mall, he added. The roundabout will be at the easternmost mall entrance.

A memo county Executive Director Rob Lewis provided to the County Commission for its Nov. 15 meeting said the city had asked SCAT to send Westfield Southgate Mall representatives a letter “that states that SCAT commits to vacating the current transfer area located on mall property within 90 days of the completion of the city of Sarasota’s roundabout on Siesta Drive.”

The County Commission unanimously approved the letter.

During her presentation to the County Commission Nov. 15, Blanchard pointed out that the relocation of part of the SCAT operation was necessary because of plans for the mall’s expansion, which includes a parking garage in the area where the current SCAT stop is located.

“My immediate reaction was, ‘That’s too bad,’” Commission Chairwoman Nora Patterson told Blanchard. “I thought that old (SCAT) location really worked well.”

“They’re circulating within Southgate property,” Chapdelain said of the SCAT buses.

The roundabout design should improve the flow of the bus traffic, he said.

Plans call for the construction of a bus shelter on the north side of Siesta Drive similar to the shelter that exists on the south side of the street, Blanchard said. The current shelter would be upgraded, she added. The county would keep about 200 feet on the south side, she said, to accommodate four buses; 150 feet of space on the north side would enable SCAT to operate three buses at a time out of that location.

Therefore, Blanchard said, the plans would be able to accommodate seven buses at one time, between the two transfer stations.

The original design called for a crosswalk between the stations, she said, but that has been eliminated, because it would have hampered bus traffic. Instead, Chapdelain said, the roundabout will incorporate a crosswalk as well as a median.

Chapdelain acknowledged that the portion of Siesta Drive between the easternmost mall entrance and U.S. 41 is a busy stretch of road and that the roundabout may help curb dangerous driving.

“It is such a wide area; people tend to drive a little fast,” he said of the narrowing of the westernmost portion of Siesta Drive from four lanes to two.

Chapdelain also has been talking with merchants on the north side of Siesta Drive, he said, to let them know about the changes that will be coming.

 

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