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Siesta Key Wednesday, May 9, 2018 1 year ago

Pedestrians, cars at odds on Siesta Key

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A crosswalk on Midnight Pass Road and changes to another one would make residents happy.
by: Cassidy Alexander Staff Writer

Residents want to change the way pedestrians cross the street at two locations on the south end of Siesta Key.

Between Stickney Point Road and Ocean Boulevard, the hope is that adjusting the timing of existing crosswalks will make things easier for cars to drive through while pedestrians wait a little longer. Near Turtle Beach, residents want a new crosswalk that prioritizes pedestrians over vehicles.

Both changes are just ideas for now, but residents are working with the county and the Florida Department of Transportation to push them toward reality.

Midnight Pass Road

Talk to anyone on Siesta Key, and you’ll hear horror stories of traffic. One resident wondered if part of the issue is the way on-demand crosswalk signals work on the stretch of Midnight Pass Road between Stickney Point Road and Ocean Boulevard.

When a pedestrian pushes a crossing-signal button to cross Midnight Pass between intersections, caution lights flash and cars are supposed to stop for them to cross. These crosswalks need to be on an interval, so traffic can flow before groups of pedestrians cross one after the other, said Gene Kusekoski, a Siesta Key resident and president of the Siesta Key Association.

Transportation officials think otherwise.

“Having to sit out there and wait for a minute or two minutes or five minutes, they’ll be less likely to use it,” Florida Department of Transportation Government Affairs and Communication Manager Zachary Burch said of pedestrians. “The point of these is to get them across the street.”

Kusekoski understands the frustration of drivers.

“Traffic is already crawling [during peak visitor season], and having these repeated crossing stoppages back to back is making it much worse, especially with the two closest to the Stickney Point Bridge,” he wrote in an email to FDOT. 

The solution, Kusekoski hopes, would be to put timing restraints on the signals, so there is some kind of guaranteed interval when people can cross, and timing some of the crosswalks together, so drivers don't have to stop multiple times on one stretch of road.

On FDOT’s part, Burch said this was the first he’d heard of any issues, but the agency would be willing to look into the matter. The best time though, would be during peak vehicle and pedestrian traffic — meaning next year.

“We just think that would make the traffic interruptions a lot less burdensome,” Kusekoski said. “We’re just trying to make it a better trade-off between pedestrians and cars so both are treated a little more equitably.”

Near Turtle Beach

Residents at the Bay Tree Club want a crosswalk near their neighborhood. Libby Sloan and Margi Ryder live east of Midnight Pass Road and must cross the road to reach the beach.

The speed limit outside their condo is 35 mph, but they maintain cars go by much faster. There’s a Siesta Breeze Trolley stop outside their condo, but no sidewalk on the east side of the road and no crosswalk leading to the west side.

“We would just like some consideration,” Ryder said.

Sloan and Ryder have been working since 2015 to get a crosswalk. They’ve met with county staff, who say a crosswalk can’t be added across from the Bay Tree Club because there’s no sidewalk on the east side of the road, the road curves and impacts sight distance, there’s a limited right-of-way thanks to power poles, there are multiple driveways that could cause problems between vehicles and pedestrians, and nearby condos don’t want a crosswalk near their property. More recently, the women have met with Commissioner Al Maio.

“We do have some hope,” Sloan said, emphasizing that they’re just asking for paint on the ground, not a signal or sign. “I think we’re making some progress, but until we see some paint on the street we don’t know if we’re making progress.”

The county is re-evaluating potential crosswalk locations.

“The bottom line is we somehow get the impression down here on the south end … that we’re kind of ignored,” she said. ‘We just feel like we’re kind of second-class citizens on Siesta Key, and it’s a shame.”

A previous version of this article misidentified the area of Siesta in question. It's the stretch of Midnight Pass Road between Stickney Point Road and Ocean Boulevard, not the intersection of Stickney Point Road and Midnight Pass Road. It also misidentified FDOT spokesperson Zachary Burch. 

I’m Cassidy. I cover news in Sarasota County, Siesta Key and the schools, plus community events if they involve dogs. I’m a Florida native, and University of North Florida graduate with degrees in journalism and graphic design. Reach me at 941-366-3468 ext. 304.

See All Articles by Cassidy

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