Other safety improvements planned in coming weeks, county staff says
Starting on Sept. 27, Sarasota County’s Public Works Department staff plans to begin a project designed to improve driver safety in the nearly 90-degree curve at the intersection of Higel Avenue and Siesta Drive on north Siesta Key, The Sarasota News Leader has learned.
On Sept. 19, message boards were placed on approaches to that curve, alerting motorists to the upcoming initiative, which is expected to wrap up on Sept. 30, county staff told the News Leader this week.
The work is expected to take place between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., county staff reported.
“Public Works will be installing Internally Illuminated Raised Pavement Markers (iiRPMs) on the Higel Avenue curve on the centerline,” staff told the News Leader in a Sept. 19 email. “New striping, additional signage, guardrail realignment, and two midblock crosswalks with rapid flashing beacons will follow over the next several weeks,” the email added.
The website of iiRPM explains that its solar-powered markers “install in minutes with very little impact to vehicles and or pedestrian traffic …” The website adds, “The sealed wireless components are shielded below the surface and therefore protected from constant vehicular tires impacting the markers …”
Moreover, the website explains that the markers “are very effective around curves with LEDs visible from 2,000 plus feet. Typical reflective road markers rely on a light source that provides a maximum visibility of 300 feet with limited cone of vision and mainly for straight roadways.”
Yet, the website notes, 300 feet is “not sufficient distance for drivers to react to … curves, pedestrians, bicyclists [and/or] dangers ahead.”
The markers are visible at night and during periods of heavy rain, iiRPM adds.
As the News Leader reported last week, the County Commission voted unanimously during its regular meeting on Sept. 13 to allow the county’s Public Works Department to handle the safety initiative in-house, instead of using $359,138 that the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) had given the county for the undertaking. That funding allocation was part of the “road swap” that the county engaged in with FDOT after years of discussion that culminated with a County Commission vote in February 2020. The county assumed authority over all the roads on Siesta Key, in exchange for the state’s taking jurisdiction of North River Road.
In the Sept. 19 email, the Public Works staff explained that it expects the in-house work will save about $100,000 on the project expense.
The FDOT funding will be reallocated to the installation of signal boxes on one or more roadway corridors in the county, the Public Works staff pointed out to the county commissioners in a staff memo.