June start for roundabout, but at what price?

Author: Share:

Siesta Key Association plans to oppose its construction citing costs, lack of community interest, possible violation of state comp plan

By John Morton

Those representing Sarasota County regarding the plan to build a roundabout at Midnight Pass and Beach roads say there’s no mystery on a start time: it will begin in June, no matter what. Its estimated construction duration is nine to 12 months.
As for the cost, it’s quite the mystery indeed now that the only bid in place is for nearly $8.8 million. That’s roughly triple the amount estimated at $2.9 million just last year.

Pedestrians wait to cross at the intersection of Midnight Pass Road and Beach Road. The location will soon be home to a roundabout with construction to begin in June. (file photo)

At the March 7 meeting of the Siesta Key Association, the tough-to-swallow potential price tag was revealed by county officials who noted that an increase in labor and materials costs were part of the problem. The county is currently seeking other bidders and will be holding a public meeting in May to update residents on the project.
Gator Grading and Paving is the lone bidder. It is the company that last year installed the temporary mini roundabout at Higel Road and Ocean Boulevard.
Meanwhile, the Siesta Key Association plans to write a letter to the Florida Department of Transportation, which will be funding the project while the county facilitates its construction, in hopes of beginning the process of potentially delaying and/or eliminating it altogether. Bob Luckner, the SKA treasurer, is citing not only the great expense but what he and others consider documented opposition by island residents as indicated in an online survey conducted in 2020.
Of the 552 respondents, the county has often suggested that each option listed – a roundabout, or improved signals, or no action at all – received about an equal tally at roughly one-third. However, when broken down responses by those who actually live on Siesta Key, only 26.52% liked the roundabout idea compared to 47.15% who reside off the island (see chart).

Survey provided by Sarasota County.

Either way, some attendees at the meeting noted that about two-thirds of respondents were against the roundabout when you break-down the results.
Finally, Luckner voiced the possibility that the project’s undesired implementation may actually violate the state of Florida’s comprehensive plan. In general, he said anything potentially deemed as detrimental to a community or not in its public interest should be discouraged, and he intends to further examine that possible pathway.
Regarding the Gator bid, Luckner wrote to various colleagues and officials in March the following:
“Hard to believe this is just inflation and smells like ‘courtesy bid.’ Without a competitive bid they may just be saying, ‘I like getting to bid on county projects but I don’t want to do this project.’
“I think bids should be rejected and alternatives investigated. SKA would be glad to assist.”
Others at the meeting voiced concerns with traffic congestion being a result of the roundabout, while the county continues to tout the concept’s ability to slow down drivers and make things safer. Furthermore, the roundabout planned for Siesta Key will feature many amenities designed for pedestrians and bicyclists – two groups commonly seen at the intersection en route to Siesta Beach (see graphic.)

Graphic courtesy of Sarasota County

Finally, when attendees spoke of their concern that visitors not familiar with roundabouts will struggle, Spencer Anderson of the county’s public works noted that there are now several roundabouts on U.S. 41 between the airport and Siesta Key with which motorists will likely encounter and become familiar before arriving on the island. In all, Sarasota County now has more than 20 roundabouts, Anderson said.
He also said tourist-heavy beach locales are not uncommon settings for roundabouts, noting they exist on Clearwater Beach, Amelia Island near Jacksonville, and one is planned for Panama City Beach.

John Morton
Author: John Morton

Previous Article

Looking for beautiful bargains?

Next Article

We’re Living the Tweet Life: April