The low-speed vehicle (LSV) debate redlined Tuesday night. About 50 people attended a county meeting at the Siesta Key Chapel, which grew raucous at times, to discuss whether LSVs (four-wheeled transports limited to 25 mph) should be allowed on a quarter-mile stretch of Midnight Pass Road that is under review for a speed-limit reduction.
Representatives of the Sarasota County Traffic Advisory Council (TAC) ran Tuesday’s open forum. The TAC asked residents who attended the meeting to provide written comments that would be taken back to the County Commission and encouraged attendees to complete an online survey.
Sarasota County Public Works Transportation Manager Paula Wiggins fielded questions from attendees.
Wiggins said Tuesday’s meeting was part of a directive from the County Commission to gauge community response to the idea of low-speed vehicles on the stretch of Midnight Pass Road from Sanderling Road to Vista Hermosa Circle.
Opinions at Tuesday’s forum were divided. Participants’ comments were generally in favor of lowering the speed limit, but safety was the main concern for those opposed to allowing LSVs on a two-lane road that many Key residents use for their daily commutes.
“Someone is going to die,” one resident said at the meeting.
Those who spoke out in support of allowing LSVs on the contested section of road said the open-air, golf cart-sized transports were environmentally friendly and could help alleviate parking problems and traffic congestion on the Key. Some residents advocated for lowering the speed limit on the entire island and opening up additional roads to LSVs.
Sanderling residents put a petition before the TAC in November to lower the speed limit from 40 mph to 35 mph on the stretch of Midnight Pass Road. Low-speed vehicles are only allowed on roads with posted speed limits of 35 mph or less.
Ryan Montague, a staff member of Sarasota County Traffic and Engineering, said the county commissioners were leaning toward banning LSVs from the much-debated section of Midnight Pass Road.
“We were officially directed to come back with a resolution to lower the speed limit and ban low-speed vehicles,” Montague said. “After that it’s up to the commissioners to make the final decision.”
The TAC will report back to the commissioners on the results of Tuesday’s forum as well as the results of the online survey.
The survey is available at: scgov.net/PublicWorks/Pages/TransportationPlanning.aspx.
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MAN ON THE STREET
Patricia Jordan and Karen Jordan, Siesta Key residents
“I would own one if they changed the speed limit.” — Patricia Jordan
“We would be able to take the LSV to the beach, to the Village, to restaurants. There are too many vehicles, too much exhaust and not enough parking on Siesta Key. LSVs could make it easier to get around.” — Karen Jordan
Tony Bonacuse, Siesta Key resident
“I own a low-speed vehicle, but I can’t use it because of the speed limit. I also think the section of Midnight Pass Road with the 40 mph speed limit is too fast. I have three kids, and I can’t take them out there; people just go flying down the road. I’d like to see the whole island’s speed limit reduced. And, if we looked at using low-speed vehicles the right way, they could help solve some of the island’s traffic problems. They’re environmentally friendly, create less congestion, make less noise, free up parking — and they’re a lot of fun.”
Rodger Skidmore, Siesta Key resident
“My concern isn’t with the speed limit, it’s with safety. I worry that when people unexpectedly come across a low-speed vehicle they will either swerve into a bike lane, swerve into oncoming traffic or slam on the brakes. And even though low-speed vehicles have a top speed of 20 to 25 mph, they are often driven quite a bit slower than that. It’s going to cause a problem.”
Jack Wright, Siesta Key resident
“First and foremost, it’s very dangerous. I live here year round and I drive down Midnight Pass Road two, sometimes three time a day. I know that when you put LSVs on the road, people are going to want to pass. You’re going to run the risk of a head-on collision, it’s gonna happen. Someone is going to get killed.”
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