Saturday, June 8, 2013

Lessons from Sarasota for Lee County: Honore Blvd. Project

This is a great story about what Sarasota did--instead of widening Honore Blvd. to be a 6-lane highway as originally planned, they changed it to be a multi-modal two-lane corridor with six roundabouts!  It is now successfully moving the traffic while saving millions in capital costs and will save even more in maintenance cost over the life of the road.  At the same time, the road is much safer for all users; and by using new low impact design for stormwater, it is much better for the environment.  This is truly a win-win-win....and something that Lee County needs to pursue. How about a field trip to Sarasota??

Honore Ave from Fruitville south to Bee Ridge, Sarasota County, FL

Here's the full story on the Honore Blvd. Road Project, with excerpts below:  

If all had gone as planned, Honore Avenue would be a bustling six-lane highway running south from Manatee County to Englewood. Instead, the 2.5 mile section just south of busy Fruitville Road is a two-lane road bordered by bioswales and punctuated with roundabouts that accommodate nearly as much traffic as a four-lane highway. Not only do the bioswales collect a significant percentage of pollution, neighbors love the design – and it cost $2.3 million less to build than the county had budgeted for a more traditional alternative....

”It’s important to accommodate automobiles but there needs to be a balance,” says Jon Thaxton, who served on the Sarasota Board of County Commissioners for 12 years before being term-limited out. “There is a balance here: there’s room for automobiles but there’s also a comfortable space for pedestrians and bicyclists – and the environment.”

.... From a traffic perspective, the road with roundabouts keeps cars moving because they don’t need to stop for red lights along the 2.5-mile section. Capacity is about 85% of a traditional four-lane but the number of serious accidents has dropped dramatically because there are no intersections.

“Roadways are like hourglasses,” Thaxton explains. “It doesn’t matter how much capacity you have at the top and the bottom, the volume is determined by the size of the connection in the middle.” Roundabouts slow traffic down but don’t require that cars stop at traffic lights or for left-hand turns. They also nearly eliminate the potential for t-bone crashes that can cause serious injuries. “Someone would almost have to want to get hurt to have a serious accident on this road,” he said. 

Stantec’s senior traffic engineer, Francisco Domingo, also lives in an adjacent neighborhood so the project was particularly near to his heart. He walks the road several times a week, checking for tire marks on the curbs of the roundabouts that might indicate that a driver took the curves too quickly. “People caught on to how to use them even more quickly than we expected,” he said. And with bioswales built between the road and the sidewalk, pedestrians are protected from careless drivers. “I never thought I’d see it happen, but people come from all over to use this sidewalk to teach their youngsters how to ride a bike,” Domingo said....

And the consultant that did the project, Stantec, was just named Transportation Consultant of the Year by Florida Public Works Association:

"The 2.7 mile Honore Avenue extension delivered an array of economic and community benefits, and sets a new standard for limiting the environmental impact of road construction in the region. Instead of a planned four-lane highway, the two-lane divided road features six roundabouts, bicycle lanes, LED streetlights, Florida-friendly landscaping, and bio-swales and rain gardens to treat stormwater runoff. Through the use of imaginative land and median configuration and boardwalks, the design team saved more than 75% of the existing high value trees and more than 16 acres of forested, publicly owned lands that are also home to two bald eagles nests."

Kudos to Sarasota Board of County Commissioners and its consultant, Stantec.

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