The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) doesn’t believe the town needs a second traffic light on Gulf of Mexico Drive.
Before the Longboat Key Town Commission went on its summer hiatus in June, Commissioner Robert Siekmann asked town staff to contact FDOT to perform a speed limit study near Broadway and Gulf of Mexico Drive.
Both Siekmann and Longbeach Village Association President Michael Drake have expressed concern at recent commission meetings about cars attempting to exit Broadway by turning left onto Gulf of Mexico Drive.
A curve in the road north of Broadway, Village residents say, makes it difficult to see motorists heading south on Gulf of Mexico Drive.
Village residents also say they have trouble crossing the road on foot to get to the Broadway beach access.
But in an e-mail dated Aug. 25 that Public Works Director Juan Florensa sent to Town Manager Bruce St. Denis and Police Chief Al Hogle, Florensa notes the study was performed this summer and neither a traffic light, nor a lowering of the speed limit (from 45 mph to 35 mph) in the area is warranted.
“There have been some local concerns that cars exiting Broadway wanting to make a left turn onto GMD did not have sufficient time to make the turning movement because oncoming traffic was traveling too fast,” Florensa wrote.
FDOT Assistant District Traffic Operations Engineer Donald Cashdollar Jr. wrote Aug. 24 to Florensa and explained that his department performed a speed study and reviewed crash statistics in the area.
“Upon review of all this data we have determined the current posted speed is the appropriate one for this area,” Cashdollar said. “Therefore, we are not recommending any changes.”
Cashdollar also noted that his department doesn’t recommend changing the speed limit for any portion of Gulf of Mexico Drive in Manatee County.
The information prompted Commissioner David Brenner to inquire in a Sept. 20 e-mail about whether the intersection warrants a traffic light that would be activated only by Village residents and would otherwise be flashing for northbound and southbound traffic on Gulf of Mexico Drive.
But St. Denis said the light wasn’t justified and had been looked into in the past.
Florensa told The Longboat Observer that the speed limit north of New Pass Bridge is lowered to 35 mph because of the traffic light at Longboat Club Road.
Siekmann, meanwhile, expressed disappointment with FDOT’s conclusions.
“It’s just disappointing that they can’t find a way to protect that intersection,” said Siekmann, who explained that Village residents drive through Whitney Beach Plaza just to avoid turning north at Broadway.
Siekmann said he worries that someone will get hurt before the issue is addressed.
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