County Commission supports changes requested by Siesta Isles neighborhood over recommendations delivered by county staff.
To some residents of Siesta Isles, a strip of road that runs through the neighborhood is referred to as the “race track.”
That strip, more commonly known as Shadow Lawn Drive or Cape Leyte Drive, runs through much of the neighborhood and is traveled by many neighborhood residents.
However, it also is used by beachgoers looking for a way to get from Midnight Pass Road to the Siesta Key public beach.
“While visitors are a big problem in our neighborhood, residents of the neighborhood are as well,” said Tony Romanus, Siesta Isles Association’s president. “We see the same cars flying through the neighborhood on a daily basis.”
That’s why Romanus and many other homeowners wanted the speed limit in the area reduced from 25 mph to 20 mph.
The neighborhood does not have bike lanes or sidewalks, which leaves many to walk their dogs or ride their bicycles in the street.
Romanus and 77% of Siesta Isles homeowners in a neighborhood survey said they support traffic-calming measures, such as a lower speed limit and the addition of multiway stops.
At a December county commission meeting, residents petitioned for a speed limit change from 30 mph to 25 mph on Glebe Lane, a speed limit change from 25 mph to 20 mph through Siesta Isles and the addition of multiway stops at these intersections:
- Shadow Lawn Drive at Shadow Lawn Way;
- Shadow Lawn Drive at Contento Drive;
- Cape Leyte Drive at Beach Way Drive; and
- Cape Leyte Drive at Canal Road
The residents contend such actions would help ensure a safer neighborhood.
However, county public works and traffic engineer Amjid Hussain said that after researching the areas and evaluating the requests based on the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, a document issued by the Federal Highway Administration, and Sarasota County criteria, the traffic calming measures weren’t needed.
In fact, county staff and the Traffic Advisory Committee advised commissioners to deny all three petitions.
County commissioners, however, showed their support for the petitions by stating that if a majority of the residents want the measures, they see no reason why the petition shouldn’t be approved.
Commissioner Alan Maio was staunchly in support of the speed reductions and even suggested that the reduction on Glebe Lane be lowered from the requested shift to 25 mph be lowered to 20 mph to match the rest of the neighborhood.
Glebe Lane is a 600-foot dead-end street that has six homes on the south side and St. Michael’s Church on the north side. The road, which has no bike lanes or sidewalks, ends in a county park.
“What would be the harm in lowering the speed to 20 mph like these people requested?” he said. “There’s a groundswell of support for these types of reductions.”
Commissioner Christian Ziegler agreed and stated that every time he visits the park, there are several kids playing.
“There’s no need to turn the road into a drag racing strip,” Ziegler said.
In the end, commissioners unanimously voted to approve the reduction to 20 mph, not the requested 25 mph.
Siesta Isles subdivisions
The second request residents had was to lower the speed limit throughout the entire Siesta Isles neighborhood from 25 mph to 20 mph, though state statute recommends 30 mph. Previously, the speed limit was lowered from 30 mph to 25 mph, and county staff added 15 mph advisory signs around curves.
Again, Maio was in support of the petition and stated it would help slow down beach traffic.
Hussain said that rather than lower the speed limit, county staff could contact GPS companies, so they could put parameters on the services, so they don’t map people through the neighborhood.
“I find it hard to believe those companies would listen to Siesta Isles’ request,” Maio said.
Again, commissioners unanimously voted to approve the reduction.
In addition to the speed reductions, residents requested the addition of four multiway stop signs in the neighborhood.
“Although the staff has changed some signage for us and removed trees that affected visibility on a blind curve, they have denied every request we’ve made that has the potential to affect volume or speed,” Romanus said.
Again, Hussain recommended the commission deny the petition because traffic stops are not meant to be used as a traffic calming measure.
After monitoring each intersection for vehicle volume and average speed, county staff found that each intersection is functioning properly. The road with the higher volume of cars should have the right of way.
Additionally, Hussain said the MUTCD recommends against the use of stop signs to slow down traffic.
“It’s just common sense to me that a three-way stop on these narrow, windy roads in a small neighborhood — a good percentage of people are going to stop at the stop sign,” Maio said.
However, Hussain said the addition of stop signs could actually have the opposite effect.
“The studies and research we review state that unwarranted stop signs do increase the probability of a crash,” Hussain said.
Commission Chair Charles Hines said staff needs to look at the special circumstances of the neighborhood, such as sidewalks, bike lanes and limited visibility, when determining the relevance of a multiway stop rather than holding fast to state and county criteria.
In the end, commissioners unanimously approved the addition of two multiway stop signs at Shadow Lawn Drive/Contento Drive and Cape Leyte Drive/Beach Way Drive. Romanus highlighted these as the two priority intersections.
Speed signs with the new reduced limits have already been added to the neighborhoods, though multiway stop signs have yet to be installed.