Forty-one Longboat Key residents who live on Gulf of Mexico Drive were confused to discover new mailboxes had been placed near their existing ones Friday, May 29.
Darren Alfonso, public information officer for the Florida Department of Transportation’s Gulf of Mexico Drive repaving project, was just as confused when he started receiving phone calls from residents who had no idea why they now had two mailboxes.
“I was under the impression that these residents were made aware of what’s going on,” Alfonso said. “The problem was the mailboxes were placed before they received certified letters that explained what was happening.”
In the letters, the Florida Department of Transportation explained that during the repaving project 41 mailboxes along Gulf of Mexico Drive were deemed either unsafe or non-compliant with regard to setback requirements on a state highway.
For a speed limit of 45 miles per hour, Alfonso said mailboxes must be placed 14 feet, 2 inches from the edge of the travel lane (the edge of the bicycle-path line).
“Anything within that area, known as the clear zone, is not allowed unless it meets certain breakaway standards,” Alfonso said.
Alfonso said affected property owners will be receiving certified letters soon that state they have 21 days to either replace their old mailboxes with the new ones with which they were supplied, or place their old mailboxes in the spaces where the new ones were put — if they meet crash-impact requirements.
State officials will return Friday, June 19 to pick up the unused mailboxes.
Former Longboat Key Mayor Jeremy Whatmough was one of many affected homeowners.
“I pulled in my driveway and saw this ugly mailbox right next to my existing one,” said Whatmough, who discovered the postmaster, the town and even his mail carrier had no idea why the extra mailboxes had been added. “This is a complete mess.”
Alfonso said the confusion would not happen in the future.
“There was a lack of communication that will be avoided next year when the Sarasota County portion of Gulf of Mexico Drive is paved next summer,” Alfonso said.
Alfonso, who is meeting with concerned residents about their mailboxes on an individual basis, can be reached at 813-767-9532.
Road Runner Highway Signs Inc. Manager Ben DeLeGarza told The Longboat Observer that his crew received complaints up and down the Key Friday, May 29, as they dug new holes and placed new, standard mailboxes near existing ones.
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