Construction related to the decommissioning of the Siesta Key Wastewater Treatment Plant will result in temporary blocking of access to part of Shadow Lawn Way
A temporary traffic disruption that residents of Siesta Key’s Siesta Isles subdivision will face next summer could end with an especially welcome “silver lining,” the Siesta Isles Association president has told The Sarasota News Leader.
For up to two weeks in 2017, the south side of Shadow Lawn Way will be closed as a crew extends a new sewer force main to the site of the Siesta Key Wastewater Treatment Plant adjacent to Siesta Isles, Peter Bonk, the county’s project manager, told the News Leader in a telephone interview. That work has been planned as part of the county’s effort to transform the plant into a master pump station, with sewage to be removed from the island for treatment on the mainland.
“I’ve never measured it, but I think that’s our busiest entrance and exit,” Tony Romanus, the Siesta Isles Association president, said of Shadow Lawn Way in a telephone interview this week with the News Leader.
Although county staff had contemplated the idea of trying to fit two-way traffic on the north side of the street, Bonk said, “that’s just not safe,” because the travel lanes are only 8 feet wide.
Another concern, Bonk pointed out, is the fact that the speed limit on the adjacent part of Midnight Pass Road is 40 mph. “It would be really dangerous,” Bonk said, to have traffic try to turn into just one side of Shadow Lawn Way if two-way traffic were allowed there during the construction work.
That means many residents will use the intersection of Beach Way and Beach Road, Romanus explained. “That intersection … for a long time has been a challenge for the neighborhood,” he pointed out. Its crosswalk is the one most people in Siesta Isles use to reach Siesta Public Beach, he said. Sarasota County staff did enhance the crosswalk several years ago to make pedestrians more visible to traffic, Romanus added. “I think that’s helped some, but it’s still not perfect.”
Bonk concurred with Romanus about how busy that intersection is and acknowledged, “We’re going to make it a little busier.”
As Catherine Luckner, vice president of the Siesta Key Association (SKA), put it to the News Leader this week, “that’s going to be a nightmare there.”
Canal Road will see heavier traffic, too, Romanus told the News Leader, but because of the numerous stop signs placed along that street, he is hopeful its residents will not have to contend with safety issues because of Siesta Isles drivers and others.
With the improvements to Siesta Public Beach having been completed early this year, Bonk continued, that destination has seemed to become even more popular. When he drove to Siesta Key recently to look at the Siesta Isles situation, he continued, that was his first opportunity to visit the public beach in quite some time. “Wow!” was his first thought, he added.
Therefore, Bonk told the News Leader, county staff plans to install a temporary traffic light at the Beach Way/Beach Road intersection during the period when work is underway on Shadow Lawn Way.
When he met with Bonk and representatives of the SKA several weeks ago to discuss the traffic management plan for the neighborhood, Bonk said, Romanus told him that residents of the subdivision asked the county a number of years ago to install a traffic signal at the Beach Way/Beach Road intersection. “It hasn’t gone anywhere,” he added of that petition. “Maybe this [temporary signal] will help them out.”
Romanus said he was not certain when that request was made. He will finish his sixth year on the HOA board at the end of October, he noted, and the matter went to county staff before he began that stint. His understanding, he continued, is that county staff said the traffic count at the intersection at that time did not warrant the addition of a signal.
Romanus and Bonk also were of a like mind in their comments about how busy the public beach park is. Ever since Dr. Stephen Leatherman — Dr. Beach — of Florida International University named Siesta Beach No. 1 in the nation in 2011, Romanus pointed out, “we don’t have much of a season anymore.” Tourism on the Key remains high year-round, he noted.
During the meeting with Bonk, Romanus added, he talked about the potential for the increased use of that intersection during the construction project to change county staff members’ view about a signal. “That would be a home run.” Even if installation of a traffic light was seen again as an unnecessary step, he said, he is hopeful a four-way stop sign might be considered. “The vast majority of people in the neighborhood would be thrilled with that.”
Luckner agreed, saying the four-way stop “is something that we have all felt would be a good idea …”
During a recent visit to Vancouver, she said, she and her husband saw a new type of four-way traffic signal that worked very well. “Why can’t we have something like that?”
Other facets of the project
Bonk explained to the News Leader that county staff heard from Siesta residents that the Master Pump Station and Sewer Force Main Phase 3 project should not begin until after the 2016-17 school year has ended, because a school bus stop is in the vicinity of the Midnight Pass Road/Shadow Lawn Way work site. Classes will be out on May 26, 2017, he said, and they will resume on Aug. 14, 2017, based on information he had from the Sarasota County Schools.
The county’s Procurement Department has recommended that a contract for the work be awarded to Cardinal Contractors of Fort Worth, Texas. The company’s bid was $5,145,718.50, according to a document released through that department. The County Commission is scheduled to vote on that during its regular meeting on Aug. 23, Bonk wrote in a weekly advisory about the project that he and other staff members provide to interested persons.
The contract allows for 80 days for Cardinal to get the pipeline to the site of the existing wastewater treatment plant, Bonk told the News Leader. After the work has been completed on Shadow Lawn Way, he continued, that street will be repaved, and the work will proceed down Shadow Lawn Drive toward the plant. A flag crew will be on site to make certain traffic moves slowly around the construction area, he noted. “Other than that, [the project] should go pretty smooth.”
Romanus noted that, based on his and the SKA leaders’ meeting with Bonk, the residents on the even-numbered side of Shadow Lawn Drive will have to contend with digging for the pipeline. “[They] are going to be a little edgy,” he said of the homeowners.
About eight houses will be affected, Luckner noted. However, Bonk and other county staff have made it clear that those residents will have “no more than a day of any loss of access” to the sidewalk or their driveways, she added. Project details call for the pipeline to be extended past the driveways “literally overnight,” Luckner pointed out.
Furthermore, Romanus referenced a section of the solicitation package that says the contractor will not receive its final payment until “all public and private property has been restored to the satisfaction of the County.” The bid material added, “The Contractor shall be responsible for the preservation of all public and private property, and shall use every precaution necessary to prevent damage thereto. If any direct or indirect damage is done to public or private property by or on account of any act, omission, neglect, or misconduct in the execution of the Work on the part of the Contractor, or Subcontractors or agents, such property shall be restored by the Contractor, at the Contractor’s expense, to its original or better condition to that existing before the damage was done, or the Contractor shall make good the damage in another manner acceptable to the County.”
SKA board members are planning to make the focus of their November meeting the work in Siesta Isles, Luckner noted. Most of the residents who leave for the summer should have returned by that time, she pointed out.
As Luckner and Romanus agreed, the primary concern is the decommissioning of the old wastewater plant after the master pump station equipment has been installed and the new sewer force main and water main the county is working on have been installed. During the April 7 SKA meeting, a number of residents voiced anger about what they described as horrible smells at the plant at the end of Shadow Lawn Drive. County staff members at that session said their goal is to decommission the facility no later than the end of December 2017.
“The sooner that thing shuts down,” Romanus told the News Leader, “the better.” Siesta Isles residents are committed to doing “whatever we can do to help move this [project] along.”
In the meantime, Luckner said, county employees have worked to mitigate the odors, and they have been generally successful.
During the April SKA meeting, one resident also raised concerns about the protection of towering neighborhood trees, as the work gets underway next year.
The bid solicitation material provided by the Procurement Department for the master pump station part of the project pointed out that Oakmont Place will be used as the main entrance to the wastewater treatment plant, and Oakmont is designated a canopy tree road. Therefore, the document said, “[a]ny load that is over the height of the canopy will have to be brought in or out through the south entrance on Shadow Lawn Drive to protect the canopy trees.”
The latest project news
The Aug. 5 update on the complete project — the last issued before the News Leader’s deadline this week — says a crew has been working on the new water main for the island, operating on the site of a utility easement at the south end of the Siesta Cove Drive cul-de-sac. After new temporary and permanent pipes have been installed, horizontal directional drilling will begin. The water main will cross the Intracoastal Waterway.
Luckner pointed out that those pipes will be “buried pretty low,” and that she has been impressed with the quality of the materials that will be utilized. Residents should feel assured that they will experience no water pressure problems, she said, after the work has been completed.