Monday, November 21, 2016

A citizen's questions about Sarasota County traffic & safety

Traffic is probably the highest priority concern for residents of Sarasota County - it raises issues of safety, civic welfare, and quality of life.

Vicki Nighswander has been highlighting road safety and traffic for some time, and had researched many relevant aspects of this problem that is worsening with overdevelopment, as we see every day.

Below is Nighswander's email to the Sarasota County Commission. Her questions are in italics, with inline responses from Paula Wiggins, transportation manager for Sarasota County, indented.

Wiggins prefaced her inline comments as follows:
Thank you for voicing your concerns about the mobility and safety of Sarasota County’s transportation network. Please know that the safety of the citizens and users of the county’s roadways are of the utmost importance to our Transportation staff. That being said, please see staff’s responses to your questions below. Should you have additional questions regarding this information, please contact me.

From: Vicki Nighswander <>
Sent: Tuesday, October 25, 2016 3:34 PM
To: Allen Parsons; Alan Maio; Paul Caragiulo; Charles D. Hines; Carolyn Mason; Christine Robinson
Subject: Comprehensive Plan Update Input

Dear Planners And Commissioners,

I have spoken with County Staff, City staff, emergency management staff, FDOT, MPO and communication with the MPO, politicians and most recently with a consultant to the Regional Planning Council and still don't have answers to some very basic questions that should form the basis for decision making if safety's truly on the forefront of decision making which should be guiding growth decisions.

What are the construction requirements for designated evacuation roads?  One engineer mentioned that they are supposed to be Functionally Classified Routes but who monitors this?

           In Sarasota County, designated evacuation routes are to be built so they do not flood in a 100-year storm event.  A 100-year storm event means that there is a 1 percent chance of a 100-year storm occurring in any given year.   Evacuation routes are designated by county emergency management officials.  See below link for further details included in the State of Florida Administrative Code. 

Shouldn't there be a study on how to move people around most effectively and efficiently with each new building and development approval process?

·         Developers are required to submit traffic studies for developments that generate 100 pm peak hour trips or more to determine their impacts on the roadway network. For those developments generating less than 100 pm peak hour trips, staff evaluates those impacts. As part of the evaluations crash data is reviewed.

For that matter, when was the last time the traffic analysis process evaluated for validity and whether it meets present needs particularly around safety?

·         Every five years the Sarasota Manatee MPO evaluates the roadway network for the two counties and their respective municipalities. This information is used to determine the Needs Plan for the bi-county region. The most recent analysis occurred last year, with the adoption of the 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan. In addition, Sarasota County Transportation Department evaluates crash data and levels of congestion on thoroughfare roadways annually.

Shouldn't comprehensive crash data and trends and analysis for the last 5-10 years be an integral component of the building and development approval process and include both county and state data?  Still County data doesn't include on and off ramps to 75, nor 75 and probably not other state roads.  Once again, I requested such data with now basically a run around and even a referral to a private service that charges $90.00/hr.  for this public data.

·         Crash data is considered as part of the traffic analysis when considering new developments and we do have access to data on I-75 and the on/off ramps as well.

Until ongoing needs are routinely captured and addressed, I see this comprehensive Plan as a stagnant bible falling short of what it could be. I do see promise in what's coming down the pike the National Performance Management Measures that will force decision making to be more strategic regarding highways and traffic.  I have been asking the question for some time "how do you measure success?"

·         Sarasota County does have performance measures related to traffic.  These are as follows:
  • o   Crash Rate by Population ≤ to 3%
  • §  For calendar year 2015 this was 2.4%
  • o   % of Lane Miles that Meet adopted LOS
  • §  For calendar year 2015 this was 90.06%

At this time, I wish to go on record with a vote of no confidence in the Boards action on the 2016 Comprehensive Plan update.

Vicki Nighswander 

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