By John Morton
Two new stop signs have been placed on Ocean Boulevard in the northern part of the Village, creating a four-way stop where the road intersects with Whispering Sands Drive and Avenida Milano.
Despite a recommendation by county staff to not do so, the Sarasota County Board of Commissioners on May 10 voted unanimously to establish the four-way stop. Previously, stop signs only stood at the intersection’s two side streets.
Residents of the Whispering Sands condominium complex petitioned the county in January for the signs, with the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce and Siesta Key Condominium Council also voicing subsequent support.
While Commissioner Nancy Detert said she rarely goes against a staff recommendation, she said “Sometimes it’s good to let the residents win one – if it makes them happy and helps them get out of their neighborhood. It looks like it fits there.”
While the signs will help Whisper Sands residents turn onto the busy Ocean Boulevard, the request was made mostly as a traffic-calming measure. The boulevard has a posted speed limit of 20 mph, but a study county staff provided showed that drivers often exceed that rate.
“That’s one of the few straightaways, so it might slow things down, which is a good thing,” Detert said.
Added Commissioner Alan Maio, “There may be people who don’t want another stop sign coming out of the Village, but I’ve got to tell you I hear a lot of people wouldn’t mind seeing things slow down a bit.”
The stop signs may also create an opportunity for the Siesta Breeze trolley to extend its route and pull aside for a turnaround. Currently, it makes its final stop a few blocks earlier at Canal Road, near Beach Bazaar. Maio said he has heard requests that the trolley go deeper into the village, and the board has asked the county staff to begin to explore a means in which that can happen in conjunction with the new four-way stop.
Back in March, the county’s Traffic Advisory Council voted 4-0 against the stop signs because a point system tied to a traffic study didn’t reveal conditions that justify such a measure. Ocean Boulevard draws approximately 7,000 cars per day, while the two side streets draw about 700 each. While speeds on the boulevard do often exceed 20 mph, but not by much, and coupled with a zero-accident rate during the study, only 5 points were accumulated in a formula where 7 points are typically needed for a stop-sign recommendation.
Don DeBerry, the transportation manager with public works, noted that a roundabout could be a consideration but also noted that it was not cost-feasible at this time.