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Siesta Key Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012 6 years ago

OBSERVED: FDOT responds to residents with a new crossing option

by: Rachel Brown Hackney Managing Editor

When a new mailing went out Dec. 23 to all condominium residents on Midnight Pass Road between the Beach Road and Stickney Point Road intersections, it contained a sixth option for improved pedestrian safety.

Just as residents had requested, that option is for crosswalks with flashing beacons on either side of the road, which pedestrians would activate in preparation for crossing. No paddle signs would be placed in the centers of those crosswalks, also as residents had requested.

Everyone who received the flyer will have the opportunity through mid-January to mark their preference on a form they can return to FDOT, Brian Bollas, planning and environmental manager for Parsons Brinckerhoff, an FDOT consultant, told me last week. He added that the results will be tallied Jan. 20; he expects them to be posted the following week at

Residents also are welcome to go to that website, to cast their votes, Bollas said.

The sixth option was a direct result of public comments, including those from the Dec. 6 meeting on the Key to discuss the original proposal for 10 pedestrian islands.

Walt Olson, vice president of the Siesta Key Condominium Council, told me Monday he felt the letter the Sarasota County Commission had sent to FDOT last month also had prompted the inclusion of that sixth option.

Siesta Key Village Association President Russell Matthes showed his members the new flyer during their Jan. 3 meeting, surprising even Peter van Roekens, vice president of the Siesta Key Association, who had lobbied on the SKA’s behalf for a crosswalk option.

“At least they’re getting the input,” Matthes said of the FDOT representatives, adding “I would like to see the four crosswalks as well.”

During the Jan. 5 SKA meeting, Helen Clifford, both an SKA and Condo Council board member, also mentioned the sixth option. She asked for a new vote of support from the SKA for that option, along with the lowering of the speed limit on that portion of the road from 35 mph to 30 mph. The SKA board approved her motion unanimously.

Clifford reiterated the main objection to the crosswalks with the paddle signs: They would prevent residents from using the center lane to make left-hand turns into traffic, which does get very thick on that part of the Key during season. Clifford was one of the first to point out to me how difficult it would be for condo residents to maneuver into traffic without using that middle lane.

Olson said Monday he would continue to lobby for the lowered speed limit as well as for six crosswalks.
As presented during the Dec. 6 meeting, and on the flyer, FDOT proposes the crosswalks at Palm Bay Club, Peppertree Bay, Excelsior and Siesta Royale/Midnight Cove. However, Olson maintains that crosswalks also should be located at Gulf & Bay Club/Gulf & Bay Club Bayside, as well as at Siesta Harbour/Crescent Arms.

He would love to see FDOT representatives perform another survey of pedestrian crossings during season, to provide much better data for determining where the crosswalks should go, but Bollas has said FDOT has no plans right now for another study. Olson pointed out that the day FDOT did its survey, in November, the condo complexes along the affected stretch of road had about 30% occupancy. Moreover, Olson said, the wind was blowing out of the northwest at 25 mph to 30 mph.

“You can imagine there wasn’t exactly a big attendance at the beach that day,” he said wryly.

Although Olson still hopes to make some headway himself with FDOT officials, he’s considering asking help once again of Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson, who lives on the Key.

“So the fighting isn’t over till it’s over,” Olson said.

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