Longboat Key Letters – Week ending March 17, 2017
Longboat Key News encourages Letters to the Editor on timely issues. Please email to: email@example.com or mail to PO Box 8001, Longboat Key, FL 34228. We also print letters sent to Town Hall that address Longboat Key issues. We reserve the right to edit.
Height restrictions at Country Club Shores
To: Town Clerk Trish Granger
As residents of Country Club Shores, we vigorously oppose any changes in height allowances in our neighborhood. We cannot attend the next Planning and Zoning meeting but I auburn you that we and our neighbors feel the same way. We want to preserve the character of our neighborhood and protect our real estate values. We moved here because we liked the feel of the neighborhood and expected Town Hall to protect that ambiance with its zoning code of 2 stories/30 ft. Please do not let developers take advantage and ruin our neighborhood.
Marc and Ruthellen Rubin
Email from LBK Mayor
To: FDOT’s David Gwynn and L.K. Nandam
Below is an email from the LBK Mayor to a citizen. This is typical of the ongoing correspondence. We received over 30 calls and visits to Town Hall on Tuesday. People are incensed that the decision to work on the bridge and conduct multiple openings during our very peak traffic weeks was made.
The news yesterday from FDOT staff that frequent openings will resume in the next week or two for bridgework is disheartening. The month of March is absolute peak season. This is not new information. The fact that FDOT would allow a contract to proceed that required multiple openings per day during peak season baffles us after all the discussion of peak traffic, bridge openings, and congestion. There are at least eight months of non-peak season that are available for repairs.
I have no response to our citizens other than to tell them to expect more congestion due to the schedule of the bridgework. David, I appreciate you looking into this and getting the information about what to expect over the coming weeks to me but our frustration grows each day with what appears to be the apparent disregard for conditions our residents and visitors experience on the road.
Please have someone let us know in advance when to expect multiple openings again so we can provide those warnings to our residents and visitors. Each time the bridge goes up there is an instant 3-mile stand still to the north because of traffic volumes. When the bridge goes down we have been sending a police officer to the intersection with Longboat Club Road to keep traffic moving southbound on 789 in an effort to clear the back up through the Town.
I hope we can coordinate future work better than we have done on this project.
Future traffic considerations….
To: Town Manager Dave Bullock
I had a conversation with our staff regarding how to avoid this type of situation on future projects. I agree that we should have tried to avoid this time if at all possible. We have ideas for going forward. I am going to have our construction staff brief me daily regarding the required openings each day and also that they coordinate with you. My goal is to avoid openings as much as possible. Let’s see what we can accomplish and hopefully it will not be that bad again.
Florida Department of Transportation
Mayor reacts to traffic
To: Carolyn Tucci
Thank you for today’s email. I forwarded it to Dave Bullock, our Town Manager, for attention and he may have called you.
The police chief is stationing one of his officers at Club Road and GMD at times when there are conditions when human direction can help. The problem is intermittent, and stationing an officer throughout the month is generally not called for.
Up until this past week, conditions with traffic flow south on GMD had been comparatively smooth when contrasted to the past several years. However, this past week traffic has been disrupted by numerous bridge openings as part of repair work, coupled with spring break visitor increases.
To our thinking, the “perfect storm” was unnecessary as the Florida Department of Transportation had committed to us that bridge openings as part of the repair work would be limited to evening hours or absolute necessity. Either the word did not get to the on-site contractors, or there have been a record-breaking number of absolute necessities.
When there are repeated bridge openings—as there were the past several days—there is little an officer can do to help. Mr. Bullock has continually been in contact with the upper regional people at FDOT, and each day I hope for improvement.
I have no instant solution to your concerns, but we will continue to use the tools we have in our possession to try and make the situation better. If we could stop the work until June we would. But obviously we can not. We will continue to utilize officers when appropriate, and we will continue to try to get FDOT’s help.
It is little consolation, but I shared in this “experience” yesterday going to and returning from the airport. Mr. Bullock can serve as my witness as he was on the receiving end of several phone calls from. And since I was sitting completely still for fifteen-to-twenty minutes at a time, there was no violation of using a cell phone while driving.
Again, thank you for writing and I wish I had a better response.
To: Commissioners Armando Linde, Ed Zunz, Jack Daly and Irwin Pastor
I urge you to support Mayor Gans for another term as Mayor.
To: Ray Rajewski
I honestly can say that no one’s support means more to me. Our history at the very least has had some twists and turns and I am truly honored that I have earned your trust.
In whatever role I serve for the next year, I will do my best to continue to live up to your kind and unexpected message. Thank you so much.
To: Sarasota City Commission
City Planners held the last public meeting on their Fruitville Road plans on February 22. There, Steve Stancel told me that he would present the plans to the City Commission in March or April.
Regarding those plans, there are so many flaws that a single email about all of them would be too long. I understand that you are very busy and prefer shorter messages. So rather than one long email, I plan to send only short ones.
In this email, I will cover new revelations from the February 22 presentation, which come from direct quotes of the planners and their Powerpoint slides.
There are two alternatives the planners have developed. Alternative 1 simply eliminates the bike lanes, narrows the median/center turn lane, and adds space to the sidewalks. Alternative 2 does the exact same thing except that, from near US 41 to a point between Lemon and Orange, it converts the road from 4 lanes to 2 lanes and adds three 1-lane roundabouts at Cocoanut, Central, and Lemon Avenues.
Steven Stancel has long said that he favors Alternative 2 over Alternative 1.
And, at the February 22 meeting, City Consultant Michael Wallwork stated that Alternative 1 would not achieve two of the project’s main objectives as listed on their slide 3 (attached). He said that Alternative 1 would NOT decrease pedestrian crossing times and that it would NOT increase pedestrian safety. As confirmation, their Summary slide 30 (attached) states that Alternative 1 “Does not improve north-south pedestrian crossings.” Please note that this alternative will not improve east-west pedestrian crossings either.
On slide 10 (attached), the planners identified “Crashes” as “Another Major Issue.” But, on their Summary slide, the planners state that the Alternative 1 design would lead to “Typically no crash reduction.”
Indeed, a 1987 FHWA report concluded that bike lanes/shoulders lead to a 49% reduction in run-off-the-road crashes. FDOT studies, from 2005, show that bike lanes/shoulders lead to a 71% reduction in pedestrians walking along the roadway crashes, 15-41% reduction in sideswipe crashes, and a 29-49 percent reduction in fixed object crashes (see attachment). Therefore, it stands to reason that if you take bike lanes away, these types of crashes will actually rise.
Though I have no studies to present on this issue, it is well accepted in the bicycle/pedestrian world that bike lanes increase pedestrian safety by giving an impulsive pedestrian a safe zone as he steps into the roadway, giving him time to come to his senses before he actually steps into the path of motor vehicles. And, because the pedestrian is so visible in a painted bike lane, it gives oncoming motorists time to see and react to the encroaching pedestrian.
And, of course, bike lanes provide safety for bicyclists. A bicyclist was killed on January 30, 2016 on US 301, between 6th and 8th Streets, a similar 5-lane road to Fruitville except that it lacked a bicycle lane.
For motorist, pedestrian, and bicycle safety, bicycle lanes are in the road design standards of FHWA, USDOT, AASHTO, and FDOT. Arterials or collectors, without bike lanes, are sub-standard.
So, by the planners own admission, the Alternative 1 design would not decrease pedestrian crossing times, would not increase pedestrian safety, and would not decrease crashes overall. The planners state that Alternative 1 will cost $9.5 million.
Is $9.5 million worth it if, by the planners’ own admission, Alternative 1 doesn’t accomplish two key objectives and it doesn’t reduce overall crashes? And, beyond what the planners admit, is it worth it if basic logic leads us to conclude that it may actually increase pedestrian crashes, bicycle crashes, and overall crashes?
It is easy to see why Stancel and Wallwork favor Alternative 2. Alternative 1 costs almost as much as Alternative 2 ($9.5 million vs. $9.9 million) but they don’t believe it achieves several basic goals.
But, Alternative 2 is exactly the same as Alternative 1, from US 301 to a point between Lemon and Orange Avenue, roughly 56% of the project length. Over half of Alternative 2 is Alternative 1. Thus, over half of Alternative 2, by the planners’ own admission, will not decrease pedestrian crossing times, will not increase pedestrian safety, and will not reduce overall crashes.
As to the remaining 44 percent of Alternative 2, the perceived benefits of 2-laning the road and installing 3 one-lane roundabouts are controversial and highly debatable. The planners point to one example where this has worked, La Jolla, California. But, basic science, as well as common sense, tells us that we should not generalize or establish policy from one example.
Also, former Mayor Kerry Kirschner says that he has visited that project and that road goes through a very different urban environment than Fruitville Road does.
The planners state that converting 4 lanes to 2 lanes and installing 1-lane roundabouts, works well. But, if this is true, why isn’t anybody else doing it? Installing 2 lanes instead of 4 lanes would save other agencies millions of dollars, if not hundreds of millions, in right-of-way acquisition and construction. If it was really tried and true, agencies like FDOT, or other Florida cities, or other agencies somewhere in the US, would be doing this routinely. But, they are not. The Fruitville Road planners can cite only one example from California.
With 56 percent just like Alternative 1 and 44 percent of it having highly debatable effectiveness, and a cost of $9.9 million, is Alternative 2 worth it?
I will conclude with one last point.
As long as we are discussing the alternative costs of $9.5 and $9.9 million, we should also realize that there is another cost to consider. In 2014, Fruitville Road was repaved and restriped at a cost of $969,000. That project should last at least ten years. If we destroy that project in order to reconstruct Fruitville Road, the city will waste most of that investment of $969,000.
I promised to keep this short and I will end here. Thank you for your consideration. As always, if you have questions or comments, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
Also attached is slide 25 which apparently pertains to capacity and rush hours of both alternatives. During the presentation, Mr. Wallwork stated that he expected traffic to grow more than the Fruitville Road planners have projected. And, in explaining slide 25, he said that while the volume of traffic per peak hour won’t increase, rush hour will grow longer. He did not offer an estimate of how much.
Residential Home Height Restrictions
To: Town Clerk Trish Granger
My wife and I own on Bogey Lane in Country Club Shores on Longboat Key.
I am writing to express our strong support for maintaining the traditional 30-foot height restrictions for residential properties in R3 and R4 neighborhoods.
We love the look and feel of LBK, and our neighborhood, and are opposed to anything that may adversely impact our enjoyment of this community.
Please share this message with all Planning and Zoning Board Members and commissioners. Thank you for your help.
Bill and Debbie Calpin
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