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.
Currently 2 Responses
- I am in agreement with Sheree (above). I, too, am a shop owner in the Southgate Village Shops, across from the mall. I feel that moving the SCAT bus shelter to the North side of Siesta Drive would impose an economic blow to the merchants within our plaza. Our small, family-owned 'mom & pop' shops cannot easily absorb the impact of such a blow, and it could easily prove to be disastrous to our charming, neighborhood plaza.
•A bus shelter and 3 buses parked in front will physically conceal our plaza from traffic and from Southgate Mall customers, thus reducing our visibility and decreasing our potential customer base.
•Bringing 4 lanes down to 2 would create a bottleneck on this busy road, which is a main road to our beautiful beaches. Compound that with 7 busses pulling out into the single lane roads on either direction, would encourage traffic to be re-routed through neighborhoods, in order to avoid being stuck behind a bus.
•The location of the proposed bus shelter is now currently street parking in front of our plaza. Our parking lot is already very small, very tight, and very full. Everybody knows that customers will avoid areas that don't offer convenient parking. Not only will our street parking disappear, but we will lose our parking lot to bus commuters.
•Commuters will invariably want to use our rest-rooms, at a cost to the shop owner.
•Three buses idling all day in front of our plaza will produce noise and fumes, driving away customers from dining at our outside bistros.
•Pedestrian safety is a new concern, with an increased number of pedestrians now crossing the street to catch a bus, after shopping at the mall or from parking in their parking garage.
I implore the City to reevaluate the proposed re-working of the Siesta Drive SCAT route.
- As a Merchant on the North side of Siesta Drive, I can tell you that no one has approached us to talk to us about the impact of having the buses on our side of Siesta Drive. We are all small independent businesses on the North side, who nearly always lose to city hall and the big, well funded, Westfield Corporation of the Mall.
NONE OF US, want the SCAT buses parked in front of our stores. There are several reasons for this. The first concern is that it creates more of hazard, especially to our patrons who attempt to pull out onto Siesta Drive. How will they see oncoming traffic past the line of buses? Among other concerns are that the buses will make it more difficult for people to enter in and out of our parking lot and cause people not to want to shop our stores. We will lose the additional street parking on Siesta Drive to the buses and gain a problem with cars being parked in our parking lot taking up our spaces, from people who choose to take the bus down to the beach from this bus stop. I would also like to mention that all of the merchants on the North side have paid a lot of money for signage that can be read from Siesta Drive. We didn't do that only to to have that signage blocked by the city buses. There's absolutely nothing the small local merchants gain from moving the bus stop from the Mall parking lot and make access into our parking lot more difficult, dangerous, and block our stores. Who really gains? The Westfield Corporation Mall. They gain the property back, they improve traffic flow for their patrons, and they get rid of any "undesireables" from the buses who might be using their public restrooms to wash up. If city planner Ryan Chapdelain did show up to talk to the merchants on the North side...he would already know how the local merchants feel about this. Once again, our city planners and commissioners leave the small business owner out of the plan.
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Sarasota Observer news editor and native Sarasotan Nolan Peterson was reunited with his brother Air Force Capt. Drew Peterson Dec. 1, at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.
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