Town Commission contemplates contents of complete streets plan
Commissioners directed staff to seek out an FDOT study for potentially lowering the speed limit in front of Bayport Condominiums to 35 mph.
| 5:00 a.m. December 20, 2022
A final report was presented to the Town Commission on possibilities for tackling the town’s desired Gulf of Mexico Drive Complete Streets Corridor Plan.
Commissioners were given the opportunity to give additional feedback to town consultant Kimley-Horn, a planning and design engineering consultant firm, before the final plan was produced and distributed.
Colleen McGue, Senior Planner for Kimley-Horn, gave the presentation to commissioners and answered relevant questions along with Public Works Director Isaac Brownman.
The report was initially sent to commissioners for the Sept. 27 meeting, but the arrival of Hurricane Ian pushed the discussion back about two months. The change in meeting date gave commissioners optimal time to look over the report in depth and come prepared to the workshop with questions.
Total planning costs for the full 10-mile stretch is approximately $28 million. However, the estimate does not include the potential need for raising the roadway in certain locations, which is estimated to cost about $2.5 million per mile.
The town hired Kimley-Horn to compile the report, which includes safety and beautification strategies along the full 10-mile roadway.
The staff memo defined a complete streets plan as an approach to corridor plan elements that can help increase pedestrian and cyclist safety, reduce congestion, improve connectivity, improve aesthetics and enhance the town’s “sense of place.”
Primary proposed improvements include
A 12-foot wide multi-use trail on the east side
Seven-foot wide buffered bike lanes
Left-turn lanes at higher volume intersections
Raised landscape medians where feasible
Six-to-eight-foot wide sidewalk on the west side
After commission discussion it was decided that instead of a sidewalk on the entirety of the 10-mile stretch on the west side, the portion in front of the golf course at Longboat Key Club would not have a sidewalk built along it as no properties are directly adjacent to that land.
The Broadway roundabout project at the North end of the island was labeled as the top priority moving forward with the plan.
"We are working every angle to accelerate this roundabout," Brownman said.
Landscaping along roads and in medians to improve sight lines and aesthetics of the roadway along with street lighting at mid-block crossings were additional proposed improvements. The street lighting is already being provided as part of the town’s underground utility project.
Brownman ____ commissioners that no road improvements would be done until the necessary roads were raised in accordance with the town's sea level rise and Buttonwood Harbour and Sleepy Lagoon flooding studies.
Potential speed reduction
Plan updates were provided to the town in Nov. 2021 and March 2022. Following these updates and public comment, commissioners opted to drop the idea of lowering the speed in front of Bayport Condominiums, Gulf Shores and Twin Shores mobile home parks.
However, after hearing the contents of the final report, town commissioners made a split decision to direct town staff to seek a speed study from the Florida Department of Transportation on the possibility of dropping the speed limit from 45 mph to 35 mph.
"I'm not sure what we are so afraid of having a study on whether we should be reducing (the speed)," Commissioner Sherry Dominick said.
Commissioners BJ Bishop, Debra Williams and Mayor Ken Schneier were against asking for the study.
Regardless of whether or not the speed limit is reduced, FDOT already has plans to add signage to the section that states that there is higher pedestrian traffic on the road for the next half mile.
FDOT must be included in all discussions of the corridor plan as Gulf of Mexico Drive is a state road.
Options for pedestrian crossings are dependent on whether or not the speed limit is reduced. At 45 mph, roundabouts, lane narrowing, speed feedback signs and hawk beacons are potential crossing treatments.
At 35 mph, mid-block crosswalks, in-pavement lighting and rectangular rapid flashing beacons as well as those used at 45 mph.
Left turn lanes
The addition of new turn lanes was front of mind when commissioners asked questions of McGue and Kimley-Horn’s designs.
Potential places for left turn lanes outside of the already planned at Country Club Shores include:
Gulf Shore of Longboat Key (Main Street)
Emerald Harbor (Binnacle Point Drive)
Spanish Main Yacht Club (Spanish Drive)
Buttonwood Harbour (Buttonwood Drive)
"The reason for selecting those particular locations was those are neighborhoods with a lot of community members, so heavy turning movements going into those neighborhoods," McGue said.
Town Commissioners and staff raised concerns with current FDOT plans to begin resurfacing Gulf of Mexico Drive.
Concerns centered around the fear that the department would make such road repairs only for the town to follow and tear back up the road to begin hoped for improvements, including the roundabout.
"If they do resurface, we are basically going to go backwards," Commissioner Mike Haycock said. "...I just think we have to get in front of that and find out what options we have."
Staff intends to work with the transportation department to ensure that resurfacing efforts are coordinated with the town's future plans for the state road.