By Rachel Brown Hackney
Over the past months, as Sarasota County Engineer Spencer Anderson has talked about the upcoming swap of Siesta roads to the county in exchange for the state’s assuming control of River Road, he has discussed improvements planned for the almost 90-degree curve at the intersection of Higel Avenue and Siesta Drive.
However, it was not until county staff published the packet of agenda material for the Oct. 8 County Commission meeting that it was learned of proposals for two new crosswalks on the northern part of the Key.
One would be placed on Higel Avenue at the intersection of North Shell Road, which is across from the Roberts Bay Road intersection, as well.
The second diagram involves a crosswalk on Siesta Drive at the intersection of Old Oak Drive.
Old Oak Drive is just east of the entrance to the San Remo neighborhood.
Both crosswalks would have what the Federal Highway Administration calls a Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon (RRFB). In other words, a pedestrian would push a button so lights would begin flashing to alert a driver to the fact that the pedestrian was preparing to cross the road. Other RRFB crosswalks have been installed on the Key; among them is the one at the intersection of Beach Way Drive and Beach Road, near Siesta Public Beach.
A chart county staff included with the graphics estimated the expense of each crosswalk with RRFB at $36,960, for a total cost of $73,920.
The crosswalks are listed on that chart along with the facets of the work at the Higel/Siesta Drive intersection. Anderson has told the commissioners several times that the Florida Department of Transportation has agreed to give the county $359,137.80 for that project. It appears that the state will be picking up the expense of the crosswalk work, as well.
On Oct. 8, the County Commission unanimously approved the road swap with the state.
In response to a question about the when the crosswalk construction might begin, Media Relations Officer Brianne wrote the News Leader in an Oct. 16 email: “Doesn’t seem the timeline is set yet. The county will not have jurisdictional responsibility over the road segment until September 2020, with maintenance responsibilities anticipated to begin Summer of 2021.”