A representative of the Siesta Cove Association asked the Siesta Key Association Board of Directors last week for help with speeders on Midnight Pass Road near the area where runner Donna Chen was struck and killed Jan. 7 by an allegedly drunk driver.
Referring to a section of the road with a flashing sign warning drivers the speed limit is 30 mph, Steve Grantham, treasurer of the association, said, “We’re the neighborhood most affected by this dangerous curve.”
During the Feb. 3 SKA meeting, Grantham said that because Chen had lived in Siesta Cove for a while, “Our neighborhood’s been profoundly affected by this accident, and we think something has to be done.”
At the minimum, Grantham said, association members want the SKA’s support for the installation of radar signs facing vehicles as they approach the curve from both directions, to warn people when they are exceeding the speed limit.
Two residential roads intersect with Midnight Pass Road on that curve, he added, and vehicles already on the road are blind to traffic turning onto it from those side streets.
A number of people have been killed in accidents in that curve, he said.
Over the years, Grantham continued, residents in Siesta Cove and other nearby neighborhoods “have ended up with cars in their backyards multiple times.” Many of the drivers have called tow trucks for assistance and avoided contacting law enforcement officers, he said.
Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson, who lives on the north end of the Key, told the approximately 20 people in the audience that she had brought up safety issues on Midnight Pass Road during a commission meeting following the Chen incident. “The commission did request the (county administrator) to have our engineering staff work with (Florida Department of Transportation) engineers to see what can be done,” she said.
However, Patterson cautioned the audience members, “That’s not going to happen overnight … The county’s not that fast (to act) to begin with.”
SKA Director Joe Volpe pointed out that a flashing sign visible to northbound traffic heading into the curve says the speed limit is 30 mph. When Volpe said he didn’t think law enforcement officers could ticket someone for driving faster than 30 mph, because the sign was not a regular speed-limit sign, Patterson disagreed.
“The official speed limit is whatever is posted,” she said.
Wendy Rose, community affairs manager for the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, told the Pelican Press that deputies had checked the sign Tuesday. Because the sign has an FDOT sticker on it, she said, “It can be considered ‘official.’ A speeding citation could be written or a citation for ‘Failure to Obey Traffic Control Device.’”
During the SKA meeting, audience member Bob Luckner pointed out that the speed limit changes from 30 mph to 35 mph to 40 mph for northbound traffic in the vicinity of St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church, at 5394 Midnight Pass Road.
“That signage is really bad,” Patterson said. “I don’t know why you wouldn’t just pick that stretch prior to the curve and make it 30 mph to the beach and back,” she added, “but I don’t have the authority to make it happen.”
‘Signs, signs, everywhere signs’
Waterside Way resident Katherine Zimmerman sparked a little levity during the Feb. 3 Siesta Key Association discussion of speeding on the Key.
Zimmerman, who is a relatively new resident of the island, said that when she leaves the 20 mph speed limit zone in the Village and turns down Treasure Boat Way, the speed limit rises to 30 mph. Then, she said, as she turns left in the neighborhood, it rises to 35 mph and then to 40 mph.
“Every street has a different speed limit,” Zimmerman added. “I don’t get that.”
“I’m lost already,” Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson responded, prompting laughter.
“Well, people come (to the County Commission) and petition for (a speed limit on) a particular street,” Patterson said.
If the petition regards a county road, she said, the commission can vote to lower the speed limit.
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