With a unanimous vote Tuesday, the Sarasota County Commission approved the installation of bollards with lights at each end of every crosswalk in Siesta Village, to improve pedestrian safety.
Referring to the poor visibility of people in the crosswalks, Commissioner Nora Patterson, who lives on the Key, told her fellow board members, “The current situation’s an accident waiting to happen.”
Siesta Key Association Vice President Peter van Roekens was delighted with the board’s vote, because he had broached the topic in January during a Siesta Key Village Association meeting.
“Wonderful, wonderful!” he told the Pelican Press. “What a great piece of news that is.”
Agreeing with Patterson, van Roekens added, “It is just an accident waiting to happen.”
SKVA member Mark Smith noted during the organization’s March 6 meeting that the headlights of oncoming vehicles could blind drivers as they proceed down Ocean Boulevard and through the Village, even at the posted 20 mph speed. That situation, Smith said, makes it difficult for people to see pedestrians in crosswalks that are not well illuminated by surrounding light.
The only catch regarding the bollard installation may be the cost, Tom Maroney, general manager of business operations for the Public Works Department, said in an interview after the commission vote. A Feb. 21 memo to the commission, prepared by Public Works Department staff, said the estimated cost of the bollards was $9,350, not including the construction costs.
Furthermore, Maroney pointed out, the memo did not address the installation of bollards at each of the 11 crosswalks. It had considered bollards only in three specific locations where SKA and SKVA members had pointed to particularly poor lighting.
“We’ll get somebody out (to the Village) to work up an estimate on construction,” Maroney said, adding that he also probably would talk with SKA and SKVA representatives and, perhaps Patterson, about the higher cost.
Nonetheless, Maroney said, “For now, we’re moving forward, talking about 11 (crosswalks).”
He declined to estimate a timetable for construction.
“It could take a little time,” he said. “Obviously, (the project has) to be designed.”
Patterson brought up the crosswalk issue during the commission’s regular meeting in Venice Tuesday, just as she had promised SKA members during their March 1 session. She noted the staff recommendation in the Feb. 21 memo was for restriping the crosswalks with a reflective thermoplastic material and installing four delineators, or paddles, in the three locations where SKVA and SKA members had reported the most difficulty for drivers in spotting pedestrians.
The memo said the thermoplastic striping had been in place for four years “and is in need of replacement.” The restriping was estimated at $6,200, which could be handled as a routine maintenance expense, the staff memo said.
The delineators, or paddles, would cost about $500, according to the memo; they also could be purchased and installed with existing county operations and maintenance funds. The paddles, which are lightweight signs covered in diamond-grade reflective material, fold over at the base if hit accidentally by a vehicle, the memo noted.
“The paddles are clearly the cheaper alternative (to the bollards),” Patterson said, “but I think the bollards would be far more attractive. The area has been so nicely improved.”
The county paid for a major beautification project in the Village that began in summer 2008 and concluded in spring 2009.
“The paddles are those PVC things … that look good for about an hour, then look bad for the rest of their lives,” Commissioner Jon Thaxton said, concurring with Patterson on the bollard proposal.
Thaxton seconded her motion for the restriping and bollards.