Commissioner Smith seeking expansion of ‘speed cushion’ program to Siesta’s southern business district

Devices designed to slow down traffic without impeding emergency vehicles

Last year, Sarasota County Public Works staff installed “speed cushions” on Ocean Boulevard, just to the north of the entrance to Siesta Key Village.

The goal, as Public Works Director Spencer Anderson explained to Siesta Key Association (SKA) members in April 2022, was to slow down drivers heading into the Village.

For years, residents had complained about motorists continuing to drive 35 mph — the speed limit on Ocean Boulevard — or faster, as they entered the Village, especially given the danger those fast-moving vehicles posed to the numerous pedestrians and bicyclists who routinely make their way through the Village.

(A Traffic Engineering Division staff presentation to the county’s Traffic Advisory Council on March 14, 2022 acknowledged that the average speed of vehicles heading into the Village from the north is 31 mph, even though the speed limit is 20 mph.)

Anderson told the SKA members that the speed cushions are “low profile,” adding that they would be spaced so they would not affect emergency vehicles, such as EMS units or fire trucks, whose wheelbases are wider than those of average vehicles.

On May 11, 2022, Public Works Department staff installed the speed cushions — or bumps — on Ocean Boulevard, just east of Hour Glass Way, as county Media Relations Officer Brianne Lorenz announced that afternoon.

“Motorists will also see new roadway signage for traffic calming near roadside parking areas, warning of the new speed cushions,” she wrote in an advisory to members of the news media.

Speed cushions, she explained, “are a series of small speed humps installed across the width of the road …” They are designed to be wide enough to make drivers slow down but narrow enough for emergency vehicles to straddle, Lorenz added — reprising a portion of Anderson’s comments to the SKA members.

Vehicles should travel between 15 mph and 20 mph when going over the cushions, she noted. The devices “are an innovative solution” that can serve as a traffic calming measure without impeding the progress of emergency vehicles, she added.

This week, County Commissioner Mark Smith, who lives on Siesta Key, reported to his board colleagues that he had met with Ken Stokes, manager of the county’s Infrastructure Coordination Program in the Public Works Department, about the potential of expanding that speed cushion pilot project.

Smith reminded the other commissioners that the installation of the cushions took place after the Public Works Department created 22 angled parking spaces — including 18 on the west side of Ocean Boulevard — to provide more public spots in the northern part of the Village. The spaces were completed in early 2022.

Residents of the Whispering Sands condominium complex — which is adjacent to the majority of the spaces — especially had expressed opposition to them, citing concerns about motorists’ speeding and the fact that tractor-trailers often park in the center turn lane in that area as the drivers make deliveries to businesses.

During his April 11 comments, Smith discussed the need for speed cushions in the vicinity of the island’s southern business district — on the approaches to the Midnight Pass Road intersections of both Stickney Point Road and Old Stickney Point Road.

“There’s a good number of pedestrians that are crossing the road” near those intersections, he pointed out, to reach the beach. (County Beach Accesses 12 and 13 are on the west side of Midnight Pass Road, near the commercial district on south Siesta.) Therefore, expanding the speed cushion program to that area, Smith added, would be a good idea.

When County Administrator Jonathan Lewis asked whether Smith was seeking what administrative staff and the commissioners refer to as a “board assignment,” Smith replied, “Yes.”

“We can take that on,” Lewis told him.

After checking for any comments from the other commissioners, Chair Ron Cutsinger assured Lewis that he had board consensus for that assignment.

Typically, as Lewis has pointed out, it takes 30 days for staff to complete such a report for the commissioners.

1 thought on “Commissioner Smith seeking expansion of ‘speed cushion’ program to Siesta’s southern business district”

  1. The “speed cushions” at the entrance to the Village on Ocean Blvd may work for emergency vehicles that don’t want to slow down- but for the most part, those vehicles are coming from the Fire Dept. on Beach Rd. By making the cushions too narrow, EVERY other vehicle is “rocked” from side-to-side, which is inherently bad for the suspension system, and the people in the cars are rocked, also. EVERY other speed cushion encountered in the County is wider (eg, S. Orange Ave.) and cars are not rocked side-to-side. There doesn’t seem to be any problem for emergency vehicles on them.

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