FDOT nearing start of north bridge, crosswalk projects

The north Siesta bridge opens for a pair of sailboats to return from an outing in Sarasota Bay. Photo by Rachel Hackney

With the beginning of the north Siesta bridge rehabilitation project just days away, Florida Department of Transportation staff and consultants have continued to assure Sarasota County residents that the bridge will not be closed at any time.

Although only about a dozen people had shown up almost halfway through a final public meeting on the project, held May 22 at Siesta Chapel, one person still was under the impression that both lanes of the bridge would be closed at various times, Jennifer Stafford, an FDOT consultant, told The Sarasota News Leader.

Stafford and FDOT public information officers already had distributed postcards to businesses on Siesta Key, to apprise them, as well as residents, about the plans for the project.

The bridge work is scheduled to get under way at 9 p.m. June 5. One lane will remain open at all times between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m., with the work schedule planned through Oct. 15.

However, Barry Williams, the project administrator, cautioned that no one could predict whether weather disruptions might delay the completion.

The work will be suspended for the July Fourth and Labor Day holiday periods, FDOT has reminded the public. No lanes will be closed from June 30 through July 8 and from Aug. 31 through Sept. 7.

One of the most recent questions she had received about the bridge project, Stafford told the News Leader, was whether flagmen would be on site while one lane was closed.

A person who has to leave the island before 6 a.m. on certain mornings to go to work was concerned FDOT was going to install a flashing light system, Stafford said, as it does with some construction projects, to alert motorists about their turn to cross the bridge. Stafford said she was able to assure the man “there will be actual flagmen directing that traffic so you won’t be dependent on a time signal.”

One other question that had popped up, Stafford said, was whether FDOT would be controlling the opening of the bridge to boat traffic. “We are not controlling the openings,” she said. That is the purview of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Stafford did point out that during a construction project, it is standard procedure for only one leaf of a drawbridge, such as the north bridge, to open. If a vessel is large enough to necessitate both leaves opening, she said, the captain must send a request to the Coast Guard for that type of opening three hours in advance of the vessel’s anticipated approach to the bridge.

The primary work on the north Siesta bridge will be the replacement of decking and sidewalk steel grating. The bridge-tender house also will be renovated, and repairs will be made to the concrete and steel in the movable deck.

Built in 1972, the bridge averages more than 16,000 vehicle crossings per day.

Along with the bridge project this summer, FDOT is preparing for the construction of six painted crosswalks on Midnight Pass Road between the Stickney Point Road and Beach Road intersections, in response to concerns about pedestrian safety.

A Florida Department of Transportation diagram shows the location of six crosswalks to be constructed on Midnight Pass Road this year.

The department settled on the crosswalk option after a public meeting in December to gauge residents’ views and two mailings that went out to residents in the condominiums along the affected portion of the road; the mailings allowed the residents to vote on their preferred safety measure.

A Florida Department of Transportation illustration shows the design of the crosswalks.

Flashing beacon signs also will be erected on each side of the road at every crosswalk location, according to FDOT’s plans.

FDOT was set to begin advertising May 23 for bids on the crosswalk project, with construction anticipated to begin in the fall, Brian Bollas, planning and environment manager for FDOT consultant Parsons Brinckerhoff of Tampa, told the News Leader.

The construction is expected to take 45 days, Bollas said.

The total design cost for the project has been put at about $35,000, while the total construction cost has been estimated at $156,000, he added.

Bollas joined Stafford and other FDOT representatives at the May 22 open house.

For more information about the bridge project, visit www.SiestaKeyBridge.com.

For more information about the pedestrian islands project, visit www.siestakeypedislands.com.