County officials are looking at options for improvements to the intersection of Midnight Pass Road and Beach Road.
Roundabouts are peppered throughout Sarasota County, but soon one could be added to Siesta Key.
After the county and the Florida Department of Transportation shifted control of River Road near North Port and several Siesta Key roads — including Midnight Pass Road and Stickney Point Road — the county is working to improve some of the island’s key intersections.
One of the first intersections under consideration is Beach Road and Midnight Pass Road, which will be funded by FDOT as part of the terms of the road swap. The intersection improvements will be part of a larger project to resurface Midnight Pass Road from Stickney Point Road to Shadow Lawn Way.
Improvements to the intersection have been in the works since 2015, and FDOT offered three alternatives to the county: leaving the intersection as it is, improvements to the existing signalized intersection or the construction of a roundabout.
Director of Public Works Spencer Anderson presented the options to Siesta Key residents during a Siesta Key Association meeting Thursday. He said the county was not considering the no-build option because FDOT already budgeted for the intersection.
In 2015, residents told FDOT officials they were not in favor of a roundabout option, so they began designing an improved signalized intersection, which is now about 60% complete.
If the county chose to move forward with the roundabout option, it would have to fund the design for it, which would cost about $300,000.
Final designs are due to FDOT by fall 2021 and the state would begin construction on whichever project is chosen in spring 2022. No additional land acquisition will be needed.
If the county proceeds with the signalized intersection, the area will be reworked. The free flow lanes on the northern side of the intersection will be changed into standard turn lanes.
Crosswalks will remain on the north and west side of the intersection, with standard push buttons that signal when it is safe to cross.
The roundabout option would 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.
“Overall, traffic studies have determined that the roundabout is a more efficient intersection as far as moving vehicles in and out of the intersection instead of stopping at a light,” Anderson said.
Additionally, the roundabout intersection would remove three vehicle conflict points and one pedestrian conflict point. A conflict point in an intersection occurs when two movement paths cross over each other, such as a turn lane crossing a pedestrian crosswalk.
The pedestrian crossings would be built farther from the intersection to improve safety, and Anderson said there is potential for the addition of HAWK beacons to help signal to drivers.
Still, residents at the meeting feared a roundabout would be unsafe for cyclists and exacerbate traffic in the intersection.
Margaret Jean Cannon, a board member of SKA, said she lives near main Siesta Key public beach access and it is 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.”
Anderson, however, remained optimistic that the county could design a roundabout that would fit the area’s needs and keep traffic flowing.
“There’s so many designs for roundabouts,” Anderson said. “They’re very, very functional as you can design them how you need to manage your traffic.”