Residents point to new ideas for Longboat Key’s Main Street | Rowboat key
Residents of Longboat Key got a test drive last week, but not of a sleek new roadster or a sensible, frugal hybrid.
In fact, no one took the wheel or shifted gears.
But about 25 people, including a handful of elected officials, did indeed keep their eyes on the road – Gulf of Mexico Drive, in particular – during a test drive before buying at City Hall highlighting the vision of the island largely two-lane street.
Measuring 10 miles from drawbridge to drawbridge, Gulf of Mexico Drive is part residential street, part tourist thoroughfare, part shopping boulevard, part fitness trail, and part state-controlled highway that s spans 18 miles of Sarasota’s waterfront in the middle of Holmes Beach.
Five traffic accidents involving motorists, pedestrians and cyclists have killed six people since May 2018 on Gulf of Mexico Drive.
City leaders and consultant Kimley-Horn have been working for months on proposals to one day make Gulf of Mexico Drive safer for everyone through a series of improvements to bike lanes, crosswalks, multi-use lanes adjacent and tricky intersections.
Called the Complete Street Corridor, Kimley-Horn project manager and senior planner Colleen McGue said the idea is to “provide people with safe and comfortable travel options no matter how they travel.”
Through a presentation, a Q&A, and opportunities to mark up giant maps of the Gulf of Mexico Drive corridor with stickers and post-its to jot down specific ideas and locations, residents weighed in on what they liked, what they didn’t and suggestions that hadn’t been considered before.
“A Single Segment”
Resident Lenny Landau warned planners to carefully consider where crosswalks are proposed, saying he sees many people crossing within sight of a marked path on the sidewalk, as many of the actual crosswalks” goes from one place to no place”.
“If they’re there, they don’t use them because they’re not going where they want to go,” he said. “You have to pick the spots. …At the north end of Broadway is a good example of people going from here to there. But to put one in the middle of the street where there’s a condo on one side and nothing else, they just don’t go.
Residents of Bayport, just south of Bayfront Park along the only stretch of Gulf of Mexico Drive with a beach immediately to the west, have pointed out to city officials that their situation is the exact opposite.
A trip across the Gulf of Mexico Driving to the beach can be heartbreaking, at some points crossing an extra traffic lane or two, allowing for a turn/acceleration lanes, to one of the rare breaks in an adjacent parallel hedge.
Not that a crosswalk in this area is a new idea.
Well, an officially sanctioned one, anyway. Nearly 20 years ago, one morning in January, residents woke up to hand-painted crosswalk strips leading from Gulfshore to the beach. The director of public works at the time, Juan Florensa, saw him on his way to work that morning and informed the FDOT.
It was quickly painted black.
“I think it had to be a two-man job, and I don’t know how they could have done it without being seen by motorists,” one resident told the Longboat Observer in 2004, adding that what was really needed was a pedestrian bridge. .
No bridge is among the proposals the city is considering, but Bayport residents have emailed City Hall asking for a 35mph reduction and asking for a crosswalk that lines up with one of the paths through the hedge.
Ben Johnson, a full-time Bayport resident who attended the City Hall workshop, said an official crosswalk would be a big help. City officials reminded residents of the limits of what can be built in 45 mph zones and how unlikely it was to earn a lower speed concession from the FDOT.
A so-called crosswalk, which features a pedestrian shelter halfway through, would be “nirvana” for the community, Johnson said, particularly upon returning from a sunset visit to the beach when darkness falls. “It’s not one of those places where there’s a crosswalk that leads nowhere.”
“The problem is that the traffic is starting to get pretty heavy,” Johnson said. “A lot of us are older, 60s, 70s, 80s, and we walk a bit slowly, so it’s quite difficult to judge if you have a big enough gap.”
Public Works Director Isaac Brownman said there are 13 connections to Gulf of Mexico Drive about half a mile south of Bayfront Park, including Bayport, Twin Shores and Gulfshore. “We know this is an area where people like to cross anywhere, because the beach is right there,” he said, adding that the FDOT said the nature of the highway at this place is unlike any other on the island.
He said FDOT officials had indicated it could be similar to a school zone or wildlife crossing zone, but no one was really interested in setting a slower speed limit there to match such a solution. traffic ready to use.
“But they’re willing to be creative and think outside the box because it’s such a unique segment,” Brownman said.
While some residents expressed interest in a bicycle-only lane instead of a sidewalk on the west side, the consensus among avid cyclists was for a wider, better-buffered pair of lanes for cycling within the carriageway limits.
Bike lanes today are four feet wide, with a single strip separating motor vehicle lanes. A seven-foot-wide cycle path is proposed that includes a two-foot-wide transition zone, marked with double stripes.
Previously, marshals moved away from reflectors or rumble strips in the transition zone, but backed painted lines that made drivers feel like their wheels were leaving their part of the roadway.
Why Speed Matters
Kimley-Horn’s initial recommendations included converting speed limits from 45mph to 35mph in three areas, the north end, the south end centered on Country Club Shores and a segment in the middle of the island roughly from Bay Isles Parkway to Bayfront Park.
City commissioners have recommended sticking to 45mph speed limits. With new state guidelines, the city’s existing crosswalks complete with flashing yellow lights are no longer allowed to be built in 45 mph zones, although they are allowed to remain for now.
The only pedestrian crossing signals allowed in 45 mph zones are the more expensive hybrid pedestrian beacons with red lights, which carry the same traffic rules as a stop light. Two such lights have been proposed to replace the yellow-lit crosswalks at Bayfront Park and Longboat Key Club Road.
What happens afterwards?
Following the public outreach portion of the project, Kimley-Horn will work with FDOT and other agencies and the city to finalize the plans and possibly group them into phases and develop cost estimates. To redo the entire road in one project is probably prohibitively expensive.
The city and Kimley-Horn tentatively expect a brief to be presented to the commission by the fall, though state funding must still be sought from the Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization.