Goal is to create safer driving conditions, county staff says
In mid- to late June, Sarasota County staff plans to begin installation of a mini roundabout at the intersection of Higel Avenue and Ocean Boulevard, on the northern portion of Siesta Key, Donald DeBerry, senior manager of the county’s Transportation Division, has informed leaders of the Siesta Key Association (SKA) and the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce.
SKA Treasurer Robert Luckner forwarded a copy of the correspondence to The Sarasota News Leader.
In his April 3 email, DeBerry reminded Catherine Luckner, the SKA president, and Mike Gatz, manager of Gilligan’s Island Bar & Grill and the Chamber chair, that staff had presented information about the proposal to them in separate presentations last spring.
“We are working with our communications group to get the word out,” DeBerry added in his recent email to the SKA leaders. “I wanted to let you know I am available for questions and give you a heads-up that we are actively working towards installation.”
During the April 2022 SKA presentation, Spencer Anderson, director of the county’s Public Works Department, explained that the mini roundabout would not be a permanent feature. He also noted that it could be installed for “a very low cost.”
Anderson described the Higel-Ocean intersection as “a really tough spot.” Drivers heading east on Ocean must yield to traffic heading north from Higel, which can cause confusion for people unfamiliar with the situation. The segment of Higel south of the Ocean Boulevard intersection leads into a residential area and to the entrance of the Out-of-Door Academy’s Lower School, at the Reid Street intersection.
Additionally, residents and regular visitors often take a west turn onto Mangrove Point Road from Midnight Pass Road and then a north turn on Higel to head up to Ocean, if they plan to drive toward Siesta Village.
“We’re trying to be innovative to a certain extent,” Anderson explained to the SKA members. “This is a very small area. [The mini roundabout] should be a good solution.”
DeBerry has cited accident statistics to support staff’s plans for the structure.
In a June 3, 2022 email to a resident who had inquired about such statistics, DeBerry wrote, “In the last 5 years there have been 20 crashes in the intersection area of influence causing 6 injuries of which 3 were considered serious injuries. The majority of these crashes were at night and 7 involved alcohol.”
In response to the News Leader’s public records request, DeBerry noted in an April 11 email that the latest data available on crashes at the intersection — from Feb. 22, 2022 to Feb. 28, 2023 — showed two other incidents had occurred since he provided the statistics in June 2022: one vehicle-bicycle crash with an injury, in the daytime; and one incident in which a motorcycle drove through the intersection and hit a sign, at night, with no resulting injury.
In that June 2022 email, DeBerry added of the mini roundabout, “This installation will be composed of modular materials costing significantly less than typical roundabout construction. This is one of a number of newer technology safety projects we are utilizing on the Key to try and improve safety on the roadways.”
Further, DeBerry provided the Siesta resident last year this link to the website of one of the vendors who supplies materials for the type of roundabout county staff plans at the Siesta intersection: https://vortexroundaboutscom.wordpress.com/our-services/.
On its website, Vortex explains that it “works with Departments of Transportation at the Federal, State and Local level to promote the global use of roundabouts. We are the exclusive licensee of the modular roundabout technology developed via the [U.S. Department of Transportation] USDOT Small Business Innovative Research program by ZKxKZ.”
2 thoughts on “Installation of mini roundabout at intersection of Higel Avenue and Ocean Boulevard on Siesta Key to begin in latter half of June”
OH NO! – not another roundabout! Roundabouts have FEWER fatalities and injuries but MORE accidents….one more reason we need to incorporate. Why don’t the powers to be listen to the full time residents?
Having gown up in England, I am a fan of roundabouts. They are a great improvement over traffic lights, with regard to safety and congestion.
However, when I first read the article I was hoping the new roundabout would be at the intersection of Higel and Midnight Pass Road, not Higel and Ocean Boulevard. That traffic light is the cause of huge traffic backups in Season because both turning and thru southbound motorists are held up on a red light.
Adding a thru lane would help enormously, bur local property owners might resist. There is a small triangular park at that intersection which is rarely used. I would advocate for using that space for a roundabout.
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