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Siesta Key Monday, May 23, 2022 1 month ago

Siesta Key gains a new four-way stop intersection

County commissioners OK extra stop signs in Siesta Village.
by: Eric Garwood Managing Editor

It might not have scored highly enough on a series of traffic-control best practices to warrant such a thing, but four-way stop signs now govern traffic at an intersection in the heart of Siesta Village.

The Sarasota County Commission earlier this month OK'd the installation of the four-way stop at Ocean Boulevard and Avenida Milano, which becomes the residential Whispering Sands Drive on the west side of the street. A Circle K store with gas pumps adds to the comings and goings on the other side of Ocean Boulevard. In addition to cars and trucks, bicycles, pedestrians, rented golf carts and tiny three-wheeled motor carts are prevalent there.

Residents of Whispering Sands earlier this year petitioned the county to consider adding a pair of stop signs to help them enter and leave their property, delivering documents containing 107 signatures in support of the change. 

The county's Traffic Advisory Council, in March, voted to reject the request, along with another request for a four-way stop at Prudence Drive at Schwalbe Drive within the Strathmore Villas community.

County transportation officials backed the council, also recommending against the traffic features. 

Commissioners on May 10 gave the green light to the Siesta Key project and rejected the mainland proposal.

"No disrespect to staff, no disrespect to TAC, but ultimately that’s the reason it comes to us," said Commissioner Mike Moran. "It's not rubber-stamp stuff. It comes to us for discussion."

Don DeBerry, the county's Public Works Department transportation manager, said that although the Siesta intersection didn't warrant a four-way stop, the staff did recommend a roundabout there. "Unfortunately, they are not cheap," he said, adding that there was no funding for the larger project. 

During the Traffic Advisory Council's March meeting, discussion centered on the possibility of the four-way stop would tie up traffic in one of the approaches to Siesta Village. The TAC rejected the idea 4-0. 

DeBerry said traffic engineers use a matrix of five conditions to help determine suitability, with a project requiring seven or more points in such areas as crash rate, traffic volume, traffic speed, special circumstances including limited sight lines and the average daily split of traffic on one of the streets versus the other. The Siesta intersection received six points (four of which came from traffic volume) but lost one for Ocean Boulevard's status as a so-called minor collector road.

"I rarely disagree with staff on these things, but on this particular one there's already two stop signs. I don’t see why it hurts to have it a four-way stop," Commissioner Nancy Detert said, adding that the additional stop signs would have a positive effect on slowing down traffic, something Commission Chair Al Maio said he's heard from citizens would be a good move. 

County Administrator Jonathan Lewis was also asked by commissioners to look into the possibility that with the four-way stop, the Sarasota County Area Transit-run Breeze Trolley could be redirected a few blocks farther into Siesta Village to begin its southbound leg. 

The free service now leaves Beach Road on its northbound leg at Calle de la Siesta, continues on at Canal Road, then makes a left to Ocean Boulevard to head south again. The new four-way stop, which is already in effect, would help facilitate the extension of the northbound leg behind Morton's Siesta Market and The Star Thai & Sushi location and make for a safer left turn.

In the end, commissioners voted 5-0 to give the four-way stop a try, acknowledging that it's not major construction and not difficult to undo. 

“It’s a stop sign on a pole, as fast as we can put in it, we can pull it out," Moran said.
"My instinct is to try it. Put the stop signs there, have staff come back to us in whatever, three months, six months, and see how it's going."

Commissioner Christian Ziegler said the stop-sign approval, even against staff's recommendation, sends a strong message. 

"That was a good exercise we just did there," he said. "I appreciated the board discussion but also the citizen engagement. I just think that’s how it should work. Sometimes that stuff happens and just sails through. Theres a lot of focus on what makes people angry, but I think some of these actions are good, and that’s the citizens rising up, making a request, and here we are getting it done for them."

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