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Siesta Key Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011 6 years ago

Majority of condos opposed to FDOT plan

by: Rachel Brown Hackney Managing Editor

As of Nov. 28, Walt Olson, vice president of the Siesta Key Condominium Association, had received 27 letters of opposition, out of a possible 34, from managers or boards of directors of condominium complexes along the 1-mile portion of Midnight Pass Road where the Florida Department of Transportation has proposed constructing 10 pedestrian islands.

Since FDOT this summer announced it had funding available for the islands, Olson and other condo owners on the Key have been fighting to kill the project.

FDOT will hold a public meeting Dec. 6 to gauge public support for options ranging from 10 pedestrian islands to no new action to improve pedestrian safety on Midnight Pass Road between the Stickney Point Road and Beach Road intersections.

Olson spent the past few months contacting all of the managers of the 34 condo complexes along the affected portion of the road.

“They were 100% in support of our recommendations (against the islands),” he said.

However, Olson said those managers had to go back to their boards of directors to present the information he had provided them and determine what action the boards wanted to take. Olson has met with six of those boards himself, he added; all of them were supportive after hearing his remarks.

Although Olson estimates only about 30% of seasonal residents are back in their condos at this point, he said, “We’ve got more board members here.”

He is urging everyone who can attend the Dec. 6 meeting to do so.

FDOT recently mailed a postcard to all the affected residents seeking their views on four options, including installing overhead signs at strategic points to alert both northbound and southbound traffic to be on the lookout for pedestrians (see below).

People may visit for more information about the project.

Noting the pedestrian islands would be built in the two-way center turn lane on Midnight Pass Road, the postcard adds, “The improvements will not affect access to driveways, nor will they impact left-turn movements. The curb on the island is sloped so emergency vehicles will be able to drive over the island.”

However, both Olson and Lourdes Ramirez, the former, longtime president of the Siesta Key Association, have said emergency vehicles use the center turn lane to get around traffic. The presence of the islands, Olson and Ramirez have said, would necessitate regular traffic pulling over into the bike lane to get out of the way of the emergency vehicles. Yet, because the bike lane often is occupied by cyclists, runners and walkers, the vehicles could imperil the people in the bike lane.

Olson said he was disappointed the FDOT postcard did not provide one option for which he has continued to lobby: a reduction in the speed limit from 35 mph to 30 mph along the affected part of the road. At the Condominium Association’s request, the Sarasota County Commission recently approved the lowering of the speed limit from 35 mph to 30 mph on the portion of Beach Road from the Village to the Midnight Pass Road intersection.

County staff had told him the new speed limit signs should be up within a week, Olson said Monday.
The postcard also provides details about the schedule for the Dec. 6 meeting, which will be held at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church, 5394 Midnight Pass Road. An open house will be held from 5 to 6 p.m., so people can view FDOT displays of the options and discuss the project with department representatives.

A brief presentation at 6 p.m. will be followed by a question-and-answer period. The open house is set to conclude at 7:30 p.m.

The postcard adds, “We encourage you to select the option you would like to see in your community. You may also write down comments about the project to ensure that they are considered.”

Additional comments are welcome by mail through Dec. 23, it says. The address is Florida Department of Transportation, District One, Attn: Cindy Clemmons, Public Information Director, 801 N. Broadway Ave., Bartow, Fla., 33830.

FDOT proposes four options
In advance of a Dec. 6 public meeting to discuss pedestrian safety along a 1-mile section of Midnight Pass Road, the Florida Department of Transportation recently mailed a postcard to condominium residents who live along that stretch. The mailer indicated four options FDOT representatives will discuss at the meeting:

• Installation of 10 pedestrian islands, with locations distributed throughout the project limits.
• Installation of four pedestrian islands, to be located at areas where the greatest number of pedestrian crossings occur between condominium complexes with units on both the bay and Gulf of Mexico sides of the road.
• Installation of overhead signs near the project limits, with one sign near the Stickney Point Road intersection for northbound traffic and one near the Beach Road intersection to alert southbound traffic.
• Taking no action. 

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