City Commission approves state grant funding for consultant to undertake signal re-timing project

Staff’s goal is to have the consultant to undertake traffic analysis during peak tourist season this year

Alex DavisShaw. File photo

With Sarasota City Commission approval this week of a $408,968.55 contract for traffic signal re-timing, staff wants the consultant to begin its analysis during the peak of tourist season, Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown told the board on March 6.

On a motion by Vice Mayor Shelli Freeland Eddie — seconded by Commissioner Liz Alpert — the contract calls for Albeck Gerken Inc. of Tampa to collect data, analyze it and then use it to implement timing changes and fine-tune them. The project is to be completed by June 1, 2018, according to the scope of services the city provided.

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) will cover the cost, City Engineer Alexandria DavisShaw explained, but the language in the contract needs to be adjusted slightly so it will be consistent with what FDOT requires of such initiatives. A memo provided to the board says FDOT approved the grant funding on July 18, 2016.

As Brown put it: “This is DOT’s money.” Therefore, if the commissioners wanted to award the contract, the vote would need to be “contingent upon DOT’s approval of the language …”

“Season is upon us,” DavisShaw said, “and we’d like to try to get [traffic] counts as soon as we can, so we can catch peak-season traffic …”

When City Manager Tom Barwin asked her whether the project would include 48 intersections, she replied, “Correct.”

All of that was detailed in an exhibit provided to the board with the contract, she added.

The corridors at the heart of the project are Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way, North Orange and South Orange avenues, Pineapple Avenue, Main Street, Ringling Boulevard, North Cocoanut Avenue, North Lemon Avenue, 12th Street, John Ringling Causeway, Ken Thompson Parkway, South Osprey Avenue, Bahia Vista Street and South Tuttle Avenue, that exhibit says.

County staff members will be working on re-timing signals at 131 intersections, DavisShaw added. “We will be coordinating with them on those corridors where [city and county roads] connect.”

The county project is to get underway “fairly soon,” she told the city commissioners.

“Alex, I know you get your fair share of inputs on the traffic situation,” Barwin told her. Still, he asked whether she or Jan Thornburg, the city’s senior communications manager, could issue a news release to let members of the public know how to contact city staff if they have concerns about the timing of a particular intersection, especially if they are “experiencing challenges” at certain times of the day.

When Barwin specifically suggested she announce her office phone number, DavisShaw replied that it is 941-954-4181.

During her March 6 presentation, DavisShaw explained that, as part of the regional Advanced Traffic Management System project involving the city and Sarasota and Manatee counties, the city’s traffic signals recently were upgraded. Afterward, she said, FDPT re-timed the city signals on U.S. 301, U.S. 41 and Fruitville Road. Subsequently, she said, the City Commission sought funding through the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization to re-time another 48 signals in the city.

A chart lists the intersections to be analyzed. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

A memo she provided the board in advance of the meeting pointed out that Albeck Gerken “has extensive experience” in such work and that the firm also was selected by Sarasota County to undertake that local government’s signal re-timing project.

The scope of work included in the contract calls for Albeck Gerken to have a “qualified signal timing specialist visit all intersections during morning, noon, and evening peak traffic periods in the peak season in order to make qualitative assessments of intersection operation, particularly in terms of queue length, delays, conflicts or any other operational characteristics which should be considered in evaluating and developing traffic signal/system timings.”

The scope of work further notes that the morning peak time is 7 to 9 a.m.; noon peak is 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; and evening peak is 3 to 6 p.m. on a normal weekday.

Additionally, the scope of work calls for Albeck Gerken to collect continuous counts for at least seven consecutive days “for each direction of travel on all major arterials of [each] corridor under study.”