Project expected to take 250 days, FDOT says
During the height of the 2023 tourist season on Siesta Key, visitors and residents alike will have to contend with the resurfacing of 1.635 miles of Midnight Pass Road — from the Stickney Point Road intersection to the Shadow Lawn Way intersection.
Shadow Lawn Way is one of the entrances to the Siesta Isles community, which is located east of Siesta Public Beach.
The road project has been in the planning stages for several years, as noted in the 5-Year Work Program updates issued by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).
However, the exact date when the resurfacing will begin has yet to be determined, Patricia Pichette, a spokeswoman for FDOT, told The Sarasota News Leader on Nov. 22.
Earlier that day, before the News Leader heard from Pichette, county staff responded to the publication’s inquiry about the project. In an email, Public Works Department staff members said they had been told the work would start on Dec. 7.
Yet, Pichette pointed out, “We still do not have a confirmed date,” though she said department staff is “still hoping for mid-December.”
She added that an announcement of the date would be provided in the appropriate weekly RoadWatch update that FDOT issues.
In May 2020, Spencer Anderson, director of Sarasota County’s Public Works Department, told the County Commission that the undertaking was scheduled for the summer of 2022.
The 5-Year Work Program notes that, on June 14, Ajax Paving Industries of Florida, which has an office in Fort Myers, did receive the formal Notice to Proceed with the work.
On Nov. 21, Robert Luckner, a director of the Siesta Key Association (SKA), copied the News Leader on an email to his fellow directors, which included a project fact sheet that the nonprofit had received from FDOT.
The fact sheet said the $3.6-million undertaking not only will entail resurfacing of the road, but it also will encompass the widening of shoulders and turn lanes, replacement of sidewalks, drainage improvements, signage and pavement markings, and lighting upgrades.
Among Luckner’s concerns, he pointed out in the email, was the fact that the initiative is expected to take 250 days from the time it begins. The fact sheet says completion is expected in the fall. It adds, “Temporary lane closures are anticipated.”
The county’s Public Works staff response to the News Leader this week did explain that the construction of the roundabout at the intersection of Midnight Pass Road and Beach Road, which originally was planned to coincide with the resurfacing project, will be handled separately.
Anderson of Public Works has indicated in the past that FDOT staff believed it would be more efficient to tackle both the resurfacing and the roundabout construction in one undertaking. However, since then, the county has taken over the roundabout initiative, the Nov. 22 Public Works email noted.
“FDOT’s resurfacing project will omit resurfacing improvements that will be completed in the roundabout project limits,” the Nov. 22 Public Works email added.
South Siesta Beach Repair Project to overlap with resurfacing
Luckner’s other major concern, he explained in his Nov. 21 email, is the fact that county staff has scheduled repairs to the beach on the southern end of the Key, using sand trucked in from an inland source; that will overlap with the resurfacing initiative.
The trucks will have to travel over Stickney Point Road before traveling south on Midnight Pass Road to the project area.
On Feb. 23, the County Commission voted unanimously to approve that undertaking.
A county staff memo in the agenda packet for that regular board meeting explained that, in May 2016, a county contractor completed the second renourishment of the south Siesta Key shoreline, placing more than 700,000 cubic yards of sand from Palmer Point Park to the 7900 block of Sanderling Road; that is a distance of 1.9 miles.
Then, just months later — in September 2016 — Hurricane Hermine churned through the Gulf of Mexico, the staff memo continued. As a result of her passing close to the county’s beaches, the memo added, an area of Turtle Beach suffered about 5 to 10 feet of dune erosion, as well as the loss of a limited amount of the recently planted dune vegetation at the south end of the project limits.
Since a Presidential Disaster Declaration was declared for the “Hurricane Hermine event,” the staff memo said, county staff was able to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) on a project that would restore the beach.
Thanks to reimbursements from FEMA and FDEM, the county would need to pay only $513,838 of the expected total cost of $4,110,700, the Feb. 23 staff memo said.
However, the caveat was that truck-hauled sand had to be used, as that would be less expensive than securing a sea-going dredging vessel to collect sand from an area offshore.
Ultimately, because of the timeline for county staff to use grant funds for the project, the scheduling of the undertaking had to be accelerated from 2024 to the spring of 2023, before sea turtle nesting season officially begins on May 1.
The November county update on the initiative says that approximately 92,000 cubic yards “of beach-compatible sand will be placed” on the south Siesta shoreline from Turtle Beach Park south. The sand will come from “approved upland sources,” the update adds.
Luckner noted in his Nov. 21 email that he had spoken with a woman who was serving on the communications team for FDOT’s resurfacing initiative. “She was unaware,” he added, that the beach repair project would be taking place at the same time as the paving initiative.
Luckner wrote that he had invited her to the Dec. 1 SKA meeting, as county staff is scheduled to make a presentation that day about the beach repairs.
The SKA meets at St. Boniface Episcopal Church, which stands at 5615 Midnight Pass Road, near the intersection of Midnight Pass and Beach roads.
The Dec. 1 meeting will begin at 4:30 p.m.