Roundabout construction at 10th and 14th streets to get underway in the fall, with City Commission agreeing to pay for enhanced lighting and landscaping

Board also votes to seek a state grant so the city can install counters to get better data on traffic volumes

A rendering presented to the City Commission on Feb. 6 shows the planned roundabouts at 10th and 14th streets. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is nearing completion of its design work for the planned roundabouts at the 10th and 14th street intersections with U.S. 41 in Sarasota, with the projects set to get underway this fall.

Therefore, in accord with the department’s timeline for advertising in April for construction bids, the Sarasota City Commission has approved funding and maintenance agreements with the state for enhanced landscaping and lighting — as well as for its share of the general expense — for the projects.

A memo provided to the city board in advance of its Feb. 6 regular meeting says FDOT plans to open the bids in June.

In a related matter, the board members voted unanimously the same day to seek an FDOT grant so the city can install counters in an effort to obtain reliable seasonal traffic volume data.

During the Feb. 6 City Commission session, City Engineer Alexandrea DavisShaw explained that in 2009, the city requested that FDOT staff focus on the roundabouts at 10th and 14th streets as the first phase of Sarasota’s Bayfront Connectivity Plan.

The city’s portion of the general construction cost is $2,234,810, she pointed out, while FDOT is responsible for the remaining $4,892,980.

Alex DavisShaw. File photo

A document provided to the commission in advance of the meeting says, “In the event the bids come in higher or lower than the estimate, FDOT shall be responsible for paying the difference or saving the funds.”

A more decorative type of lighting that the city prefers will cost $25,231, the staff memo notes. The expense of the enhanced landscaping will be $752,620, DavisShaw told the board. “In general, they do very minor landscaping,” DavisShaw added of FDOT.

The total expense of the landscaping has been estimated at $1,085,952.

In response to a question from Vice Mayor Shelli Freeland Eddie, DavisShaw explained that the $752,620 must be set aside in escrow before the department can advertise for bids, according to FDOT regulations. That way, DavisShaw added, FDOT staff will be assured the money will be available when it is needed.

A staff document shows that $17,500 of the city’s portion of the project expenses will come from road impact fees, with another $325,000 from multi-modal impact fees.

Freeland Eddie also noted that the staff memo said the city has received financial assistance for the roundabouts through the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).

“We have been cobbling together funds” for the work, DavisShaw replied. The money provided through the MPO goes directly to FDOT, she added.

On separate motions, the commissioners unanimously approved the five agreements with FDOT that DavisShaw presented, covering various facets of the projects.

The Capital Improvement Program the City Commission adopted for this fiscal year — which ends on Sept. 30 — includes not only steps related to the roundabouts at 10th and 14th streets, but it also lists work regarding planned roundabouts on U.S. 41 at Fruitville Road, Gulfstream Avenue, Orange Avenue, Main Street, Myrtle Street and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way. The Fruitville Road plan has been incorporated into the Quay Sarasota project, underway on the bayfront. The city will reimburse the developer after that roundabout has been completed.

FDOT has put emphasis on roundabout construction as a means of promoting safety by slowing down motorists.

Traffic counters

Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown. File photo

Later during the Feb. 6 session, Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown reminded the commissioners that during their Jan. 17 meeting, a member of the public requested that the board ask FDOT to install traffic counters to determine whether the department’s seasonal figures for the city are correct.

On Jan. 17, Lou Costa showed the commissioners aerial maps and read a prepared statement saying that FDOT’s Peak Season Conversion Tables are inaccurate, even though municipalities rely on them as a primary reference tool for planning, and the state uses them for road design initiatives and long-term planning.

Costa pointed out that the data in the tables is derived from counters used on a continuous basis. While Lee County has 64 of them, Costa said, and Manatee County has 23, Sarasota County has only three; none is within the city limits.

On Feb. 6, Brown explained that FDOT has a grant available that would cover the expense of more counters, adding that staff had prepared a draft of a letter for Mayor Willie Shaw to sign to apply for the funding.

Since the letter was prepared, Brown continued, one amendment to it had been suggested. “There’s been some discussions that during our peak season [this year], [FDOT] intends to do some traffic counts in the city, but it will only be for three days.” If the commissioners agreed, he added, the letter would be amended to ask the state agency to extend the period to two weeks, “to get a more accurate picture of what the traffic is like in the city of Sarasota.”

City Manger Tom Barwin suggested that the traffic counts be done on weekends as well as weekdays.

In just five years, downtown Sarasota has seen numerous new residential projects breaking ground. Thousands of new residents are expected to join tourists in increasing traffic congestion, especially during season. File photo

The draft of the letter says that city leaders understand the grant funding for the installation of counters is limited “and is provided on a ‘need based’ priority.” The letter continues, “As our City continues to grow in population and continues to draw visitors to our vibrant and attractive urban centers and beaches, these traffic counters will provide data that are more accurate for transportation planners and engineers to better plan for our transportation/multi-modal needs.”

The letter asks that FDOT consider the city’s request a “very high priority.”

When Shaw sought consensus regarding the letter, his colleagues agreed that it should be transmitted to FDOT. Commissioner Susan Chapman made the formal motion, which included Brown’s suggestion that FDOT extend its seasonal counts in the city from three days to two weeks. The motion passed unanimously.