Latest Longboat crosswalk plan to mar island entrance with FDOT signs

Editor & Publisher

In my backyard my seven-year-old son takes a 10-foot board and props it up to roll his cars down at high rates of speed. Then he places little green plastic army men on the hill and the descending cars run over them one by one.

This model is the same one the FDOT is using and our commissioners are embracing in installing a crosswalk for pedestrians at Northshore Road at the base of the hill off of the Longboat Pass Bridge.

Two months ago, a resident was hit by a car and flew more than a dozen feet in one of the newly installed crosswalks on the south end of the Key. He had the opportunity to visit Sarasota Memorial Hospital by ambulance. The Town manager urged the FDOT to add signage and they did after the accident.

But now we are tempting the Crosswalks Gods some more — and it all comes down to getting a sidewalk. Let me explain…

Longboat Key has a crosswalk along the entirety of Gulf of Mexico Drive on the east side of the road with one exception. That exception is the crosswalk ends at Broadway in the Village.

Logic would suggest that continuing that crosswalk on the east side to the Longboat Pass Bridge would make sense. And according to the FDOT engineer in charge of the project it is most logical — except for the cost.

The engineer says that continuing the crosswalk on the east side of GMD might entail engineering work in the right of way and the total cost could be close to $1 million.

The alternative is to extend the existing sidewalk about two-thirds of the way to the bridge and then cross to the west side of GMD at Northshore Road. Then pedestrians can then cross Northshore Road and walk north to the bridge on another small sidewalk extension. The total cost of that project is $175,000.

The engineer says of course it would be safest to not have the crosswalk and have pedestrians continue on the existing sidewalk, but the cost and the scheduling to complete that would take years. The addition of the crosswalk allows the project to move forward.

Is all of the worry much ado about nothing?

Is an inferior, but cheaper solution, a good enough outcome?

To make the crosswalk safe, several things will have to occur. First, a series of signs on both sides of the road will have to be installed. Flashing lights will be installed as well.

Then the speed limit will likely be lowered to 35 MPH, which the Commission has requested to make the situation safer.


Reactive planning…

This is where we start operating at convoluted cross purposes, and it all comes down to reactive instead of proactive planning.

First, the Town has adopted the idea and concept and paid for the Urban Land Institute to establish that the entrances to Longboat Key need to be as spiffy, beautiful and make a signature statement on both ends of the Key. The idea is to enter a special place.

By putting the crosswalk at the very entrance of the Key it will become the first thing visitors and residents will see — a junkyard of FDOT signs.

The original idea was to get rid of excess signage. The five crosswalks have added dozens and dozens of signs to a Key that has had two significant pedestrian accidents in the past five years. The first was when Commissioner Terry Gans hit resident Ray Rajewski who was at one time a rival of Gans in an election to the Town Commission. Rajewski was bicycling in a crosswalk in front of Publix at GMD when Gans ploughed into him in his Lexus.

The other incident was the most recent one in the newly installed crosswalk that was mentioned above.

A few years back a fatality occurred near the Colony at night when a driver hit a woman who wandered in the road, but was not crossing the road.

In short, we are creating a solution for which there is no known problem. We are offering the illusion of safety by installing crosswalks and then have to add sign after sign to alert drivers.


Signage ruining LBK entrance

So after spending $125,000 on the Urban Land Institute study, after saying the number one priority is preserving and enhancing property values and after making a goal in beautifying the ends of the Key, the first sign of your arrival on Longboat Key will not be landscaping, it will not be “Welcome,” it will not even be one of our beautiful homes or a beach. It will be a series of bright yellow signs announcing an unfortunate crosswalk location.

Any resident or villager will tell you it is the wrong location. It connects to nothing and really only makes sense close to Broadway where people cross to go to the beach.

We need to focus on ever improving the beauty of the entrances to the island. Please do not install a series of signs that make us look more like an extension of Bradenton Beach rather than a premier community.

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2 Responses for “Latest Longboat crosswalk plan to mar island entrance with FDOT signs”

  1. Dan Screet says:

    Once again Mr. Reid you the data that you have conjured up is a half-hearted attempt at taking facts and twisting them to suit your tirade. I will once again attempt to assist you in understanding common sense engineering facts and actual data.
    After reading your cutesy little piece here I personally took a drive to the proposed new sidewalk location. I noticed both pedestrians and bicyclists along this stretch. I also noticed that at approximately North Shore on the east side are a couple residences that I do not believe will appreciate in the least losing their driveways to install the sidewalk without a pedestrian crossing. The driveways currently appear that they both require good driving skills and a vehicle with a nice ground clearance to even navigate them. How in your engineering prowess are you going to maintain those if you extend out a flat area to locate the sidewalk on the east side of the roadway?
    Then to proceed past the driveways, just exactly where may I ask are you going to locate the sidewalk on the east? I did not measure but I would fare to guess there is less than 3 feet of area before you would fall rather tragically to impending injury. There appears to tiptoe along that side of the road let alone install a sidewalk.
    I am guessing based on your other misinformation statements that $1 million dollars is only a portion of what a sidewalk on the east side of road would cost. That cost I would fare to guess does not include environmental concerns that would be encountered widening the area between the driveways and the bridge.
    As for your woefully incorrect accident data, I can only assume you didn’t actually read the accident reports which are public record. Because I would believe it fair to say that the sister of the lady that was killed crossing GMD would be completely aghast at your rendition of what happened. I performed a tiny bit of investigation so let me clear it up for folks reading that like facts: On 1/27/2012 Jo and her sister Myra returned from St. Armands Circle on the 6:15 trolley. As they went to cross the road from the trolley stop on the west side to their eastern side abode Myra made it across the street and Jo did not. The actual facts from the police report do not match yours do they sir?
    Now to address your concern on signs and crosswalks. Hypothetically if your 10 year old was walking along the east side of GMD and he spotted a friend on the west side of GMD. Would it be appropriate for your child to have to go back home, get you to take him in a car to the west side of the road so that he may join in some play time with his friend? Or would you rather him have a safe way to cross the roadway? Why is it so offensive to have proper signage and the ability to cross a road safely?
    Sir I beg you to drop a little of your creativity when reporting or label your articles a pure fiction.
    Thank you.

  2. Graham Forbes says:

    I’ve been coming to LBK every year since 1986. Not that long ago you could have played tennis across GMD. LBK was a quiet residential area. Not any more.
    Since the new bridge was built, more traffic than ever uses GMD as a quick road to Bradenton. 70% of traffic is thru-traffic. This will not change no matter how few or how many signs there are.
    The town council has consistently failed to tackle the huge volume of traffic. They have failed to keep up with the times: they seem to believe that faster roads mean less traffic. All over the world, forward-thinking councils restrict speed in suburban areas. Even Bradenton has a lower speed limit on GMD.
    GMD should be reclassified as a suburban road with a 25 mph limit. As it is LBK has become a divided community, one on either side of a freeway-like road. We need less traffic. not fewer signs

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