Construction on projects along Higel Avenue, Siesta Drive and Stickney Point road are set to begin this year.
Following the county’s road swap with the Florida Department of Transportation and in preparation of new developments, Siesta Key-area roads will undergo several major projects in 2021.
In the swap, which took more than two years to negotiate, the county gave FDOT control of River Road, which connects Interstate 75 to North Port, in exchange for stretches of Stickney Point Road, North Midnight Pass Road, Higel Avenue and Siesta Drive.
Now construction will begin on projects associated with the swap and with the mixed-use development Siesta Promenade.
Here’s what Siesta Key residents can expect in 2021:
Higel Avenue and Siesta Drive
County commissioners agreed to include an initiative to fund safety improvements in the nearly 90-degree curve intersection at Higel Avenue and Siesta Drive.
As a result of the swap, FDOT gave the county about $360,000 for the project.
Residents have long complained about the intersection, calling it dangerous for both motorists and pedestrians. Several residents formed the organization Make Siesta Drive Safer in the hopes of initiating change at the intersection.
MSDS President Pat Wulf said the road swap provided the organization a more direct route to road improvements.
“What we found was the closer we got to the local government, the better off we were in terms of what we might be able to do,” Wulf said.
Improvements will include updated asphalt and striping, additional signs, guard rails, traffic separators and flashing beacons.
According to county documents, the project will be completed in three segments, which include:
- Improvements on Higel Avenue and Siesta Drive to allow better visibility;
- A crosswalk on Higel Avenue at the intersection of North Shell Road; and
- A crosswalk on Siesta Drive at the intersection of Old Oak Drive.
Construction is expected to be complete by spring.
Stickney Point Road traffic signal
Although a specific installation schedule has not yet been formalized, FDOT approved work on a traffic signal at the mainland intersection of Stickney Point Road and Avenue B and C.
The signal will be added as part of the Siesta Promenade project, a mixed-use development planned at the intersection of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road.
Before approving the project, county commissioners said the traffic signal, which will control traffic leaving Siesta Promenade, would have to be installed.
Developer Kimley-Horn requested two permits for the project and will begin work in 2021.
Throughout the approval process of Siesta Promenade, residents worried the addition of a traffic light would exacerbate backups on Stickney Point Road, which serves as one of two entrances to the Key.
Roundabout at Midnight Pass Road and Beach Road
Despite much opposition from residents, commissioners in December approved a roundabout at the intersection of Beach Road and Midnight Pass Road.
Public Works Director Spencer Anderson said the roundabout, which is located just south of the main public Siesta Key Beach access, would be more efficient at continuing a flow of traffic than a traditional intersection.
Improvements to the intersection have been in the works since 2015, and the project will be funded by FDOT as part of the road swap.
In 2015, residents told FDOT officials they were not in favor of a roundabout, so they began designing improvements to the signalized intersection already in place. The county will now have to fund designs for the roundabout, which will cost about $300,000.
The roundabout will have three approaches with two lanes in the center. In addition to pedestrian spaces on the north and west side, a pedestrian crossing would be added on the east side of the intersection.
The pedestrian crossings would be built farther from the intersection to improve safety, and Anderson said there is potential for the addition of HAWK on-demand crossing beacons. Cyclists will be directed away from the traffic flow, so they don’t intervene with motorists.
Still, residents worry the intersection will be unsafe. Margaret Jean Cannon, a board member of SKA, said she lives near main Siesta Key public beach access and finds it difficult to navigate Beach Road during season.
“Going down this way, of people crossing the road, as well as cars exciting the beach, it’s going to push the traffic even further,” Cannon said. “It’s going to push the traffic all the way to Siesta Isles.”
Commissioner Christian Ziegler questioned whether a roundabout would impede the operations of the firefighters at Station No. 13, directly north of the intersection. Anderson said he did not anticipate any problems related to slower call times, and the roundabout will be designed to handle vehicles of all sizes.
Designs for the roundabout are due to FDOT by fall 2021, and construction on the project is expected to begin in 2022.