By Rachel Brown Hackney
During an extensive staff presentation about transportation on May 21, the County Commission learned a bit more about the plans for safety improvements at the intersection of Higel Avenue and Siesta Drive.
Paula Wiggins, county transportation planning manager, noted that staff has been working both with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and representatives of Make Siesta Drive Safer (MSDS) about those plans, as numerous crashes have occurred at that sharp curve on the northern part of Siesta.
Make Siesta Drive Safer leaders have discussed their efforts at length on two occasions with Siesta Key Association members, including MSDS’ focus on the Higel/Siesta curve.
During the Siesta Key Association meeting on Jan. 5, 2018, Pat Wulf, president of the Bay Island Siesta Association — of which Make Siesta Drive Safer is a committee — reported that between 2012 and 2015, 180 crashes involving more than 300 vehicles were recorded on the 1.9-mile stretch from Osprey Avenue to Higel Avenue, with many of them occurring in the vicinity of the curve.
On May 21, Wiggins reminded the commissioners about the proposed swap of roads on Siesta to county authority, in exchange for FDOT’s assuming control of River Road. (On May 13, County Engineer Spencer Anderson told SNL that the swap will occur this summer.)
After the road swap has been completed, Wiggins pointed out, FDOT has agreed to fund the project at the Higel/Siesta Drive intersection, but county staff will oversee its construction.
A slide Wiggins showed the board includes notations about the addition of 108 linear feet of guardrail along the westbound section of Siesta Drive on the approach to the curve; the removal of the existing guardrail just south of the intersection; the addition of another 109 linear feet of guardrail further south of the curve; and a 225-foot-long traffic separator through the curve.
A second project planned on the Key is listed in FDOT’s latest Five-Year Work Program for 2022. That is the resurfacing of Midnight Pass Road from the Stickney Point Road intersection to Shadow Lawn Way. Altogether, the length of that initiative is 1.635 miles, the Work Program document says. The project’s total expense has been put at $2,718,402.