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The Florida Department of Transportation added a sixth pedestrian safety option for Midnight Pass Road when it sent a second mailing in late December to condo residents.
Siesta Key Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012 6 years ago

Confusion arises over latest FDOT safety option

by: Rachel Brown Hackney Managing Editor

The past nine days, the vice president of the Siesta Key Condominium Council has been advising residents of new information he received from a Florida Department of Transportation engineer. Walt Olson says the information should deter the council from voting for the latest option FDOT has proposed for pedestrian safety on Midnight Pass Road.

Olson told the Pelican Press last week that he had spoken Jan. 10 with the engineer, who had told him that if the majority of residents chose Option 6 in the latest FDOT survey about pedestrian safety options on Midnight Pass Road, that option would include rumble strips and other features that would prevent drivers from using the center lane to make left-hand turns into traffic.

Olson called an emergency session of the Condo Council board last week to convey that information, he said.

However, Cindy Clemmons, public information director for FDOT’s District One, which includes Sarasota County, told the Pelican Press in a Jan. 17 email that Option 6 does not provide for rumble strips.

“There would be a crosshatch-marked area with some small, light-reflective chips, known as reflective pavement markers (RPMs) placed in the center lane near the crosswalks, but these are not rumble strips,” she said. “The RPMs are there for light reflectivity at night.”

Regarding the center lane, however, Clemmons pointed out that vehicles should use that lane “to make left turns into and out of immediately adjacent driveways. Cars should not be accelerating or decelerating to get in or out of traffic, pass other vehicles in the travel lanes or to reach a driveway that is not immediately adjacent. Improper use of the center lane can be enforced as a traffic violation by law enforcement.”

She added, “Furthermore, a driver who chooses to drive on the crosshatch-marked area on either side of a crosswalk, while in the center lane, would be in violation of (the law).”

During a public meeting held Dec. 6, at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church, FDOT officials presented a fifth option, calling for four crosswalks with paddle signs in the center of each. The signs would warn motorists to be alert to people trying to cross the road.

A straw poll of the approximately 150 Key residents at the meeting found 39% in support of that option. However, condo residents later learned that only emergency vehicles would be able to knock down the signs legally, if those vehicles needed to use the center lane. After the Sarasota County Commission, the Siesta Key Association and individuals contacted FDOT to request a crosswalk option without paddle signs, FDOT included that option in the mailing it sent Dec. 23 to the residents of the 35 condo complexes along Midnight Pass Road between the Beach Road and Stickney Point Road intersections.

Jan. 20 is the last day residents can respond to the survey, either by mail or by visiting the website, Results of the survey also are expected to be posted next week on that website.

Olson said last week that the Condo Council would continue to fight any option that would prevent motorists from using the center lane to make left-hand turns into traffic. “Everybody who’s here realizes how important that (center lane) is,” he added.

Therefore, Olson said, the Condo Council once again was supporting Option 4 provided by FDOT: Do nothing.

Clemmons pointed out in her email, “It is imperative that the public understand the purpose of this potential project. Florida has the second-worst average for pedestrian fatality rates in the nation, and 11% of all pedestrian fatalities nationwide occur in our state.”

Soon after the latest survey results are available, Clemmons said, “(FDOT) will make a decision as to whether to proceed with the safety project and, if so, what the final design would look like.” 

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