FDOT drainage project to necessitate Siesta Drive lane closures near north bridge in early 2017

Work, which is to begin Jan. 9 at San Remo Terrace intersection, catches Siesta Chamber leaders by surprise

A graphic shows the project area. Image courtesy FDOT

With a project already underway at the Stickney Point Road/Midnight Pass Road intersection, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is preparing to start work on another initiative that will affect traffic to and from Siesta Key. This one will be on the north end, the department announced late last week.

Officially, the State Road 758/Siesta Drive and San Remo Terrace Drainage Improvements project is set to begin on Jan 9, 2017, and it will entail lane closures, FDOT says in a flyer. Completion of the estimated $200,000 undertaking is expected to be in the spring of 2017, the flyer adds, “weather permitting.”

Robin Stublen, communications specialist for FDOT in its District One office, told the News Leader in a Dec. 19 email, “Lane closures are anticipated to be minimal, [taking place on] only a few nights,” as crews install piping beneath Siesta Drive.

The news appears to have surprised members of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce. Chair Mark Smith told The Sarasota News Leader on Dec. 21 that he was unaware of the project until he listened to a voicemail the News Leader had left for him this week. Then Catherine Luckner, second vice president of the Siesta Key Association (SKA), sent him a copy of the FDOT project flyer, he added.

“Usually, FDOT … [representatives] have been very forthcoming and, I’d say, even sensitive to the fact that we have a season and the traffic increases substantially,” Smith told the News Leader, especially referencing the efforts department staff and public relations personnel made prior to the repairs to the north Siesta Drive bridge in 2011 and the current Stickney Point Road/Midnight Pass Road project.

Asked why FDOT would commence this second project involving Siesta Key during the height of tourist season, Stublen pointed out in his email to the News Leader that because the focus is drainage improvements, it is necessary for the work to be handled during the dry season. He noted that because the region typically has far less rain in the winter months than the summer months, FDOT staff also hopes the project can be finished more quickly.

A second aerial view shows the project area, just north of the Siesta Drive bridge to Siesta Key. Image courtesy FDOT

Stublen further pointed out that FDOT had notified the Siesta Key Association, the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce and the Siesta Key Village Association (SKVA) about the pending construction.

“They just chose to ignore the fact that we’re going into season,” Smith told the News Leader. While he added that he understands the need for the project to be undertaken during dry weather, “quite frankly, they missed the window of opportunity.” If the contractor had started the work three months ago, Smith continued, the project could have been completed prior to the start of high season and during a dry period.

“I just hope they can go faster than they think they can,” Smith continued. “Like pulling a tooth: Just tie it to the door and slam it.”

Luckner said in a Dec. 20 interview with the News Leader that she had had a good exchange of information about the project with Brian Bollas, the public information officer working with FDOT on it. Praising Bollas for his “people skills,” she added that she is optimistic the project “[is] going to be short-lived.” Moreover, she said of contractors working for the state department, “They’re usually pretty good about staging equipment.”

Nonetheless, she noted the proximity of the work to the north bridge.

The San Remo Terrace intersection is a short distance from the north Siesta bridge. Image courtesy FDOT

Luckner added that the SKA probably would send a copy of the FDOT flyer to its members in an email blast.

As for the Stickney Point Road/Midnight Pass Road initiative: Stublen added that it “should be completed by end of the year.” A News Leader visit to the site on Dec. 23 found the crosswalks had been realigned and the pedestrian refuge island was in place. No signage warning of roadwork underway was visible in the vicinity of the intersection.

That project encompasses pedestrian safety improvements, including a refuge island at the northeast corner of the intersection and the tightening of the right turn lane from Stickney Point Road onto Midnight Pass Road.

The contractor for the Siesta Drive project is Ajax Paving Industries of Florida, which has an office in Nokomis.

According to the FDOT flyer, that work will include the construction of new stormwater drainage inlets, a realignment of the sidewalk in that vicinity and enhancements to the sidewalk.