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Traffic study flawed

By Staff | Feb 18, 2015

To the editor:

The latest study from JMB Engineering is simply an expansion of their first two efforts with the addition of three more Institute of Traffic Engineers Land Use Codes inserted in the analysis. Added are LUC codes 656 Day Care Center, LUC Code 816 Hardware/Paint Store, and LUC Code 896 DVD/Video Rental Store. Since this study was submitted, Doc Ford’s has applied for and been approved for 32 additional Bonus Seats, 24 of which will be on the 871 sq. ft. deck behind the Tarpon Bay Room noted in their plans. Thus the new sq. ft. figure is 9,184 + 871 = 10,005 and the new seating is 214 + 32 = 246. To label this report a “Traffic Impact Study” for the proposed conditional use request of a 10,055 sq. ft., 246 seat high volume sit down restaurant at the Tarpon Bay Road location is serious misrepresentation. This study is simply a traffic count using urban data figures comparing dissimilar businesses and the increase in vehicles that they would generate if they were all the size of the proposed Doc Ford’s.

What is missing in this exercise is the absence of any consideration given to the critical location of Doc Ford’s to the Periwinkle/Tarpon Bay Road junction, the timing of the peak operational hours of a 10,055 sq. ft. 246 seat restaurant and its impact on traffic, and the unique character of Sanibel Island traffic. The City of Sanibel considers the road junction of Periwinkle/ Tarpon Bay so critical that Sec. 126-91 of Article IV Conditional Uses, specifically notes that “Eating places such as restaurants, grocery stores, etc. not listed as permitted use.shall be permitted as conditional” but is restricted as follows: “(1) No access driveway to any parcel on which such use is located shall be any closer than 200 feet to the intersection of Periwinkle Way with the Causeway Road, Beach Road, DonaxTarpon Bay Road etc.” Doc Ford’s proposed location across from Bailey’s store will have an access driveway off of Island Inn Road opposite Lily’s Jewelry store. Does Doc Ford’s plan comply with this ordinance restriction? Yes, it does. Their proposed driveway is more than 200 ft. from the Periwinkle/Tarpon Bay intersection. Is the distance of the access driveway to the intersection of Periwinkle/Tarpon Bay far enough to be immaterial? No, it is not. The proposed Doc Ford’s access driveway’s proximity to the 4 way stop intersection of Periwinkle/Tarpon Bay Road and the traffic impact of an additional 90 to 100 vehicles an hour matters very much.

During the third week of April 2014 (4-14-14-through 4-20-14), the City of Sanibel contracted with Quality Counts LLC to conduct an Island wide survey of traffic volume. This study counted vehicles over 15 minute intervals in each 24 hour period on every critical road path and junction on Sanibel Island. This tube count time sensitive data presented a real time actual picture of the uniqueness of Sanibel Island traffic. The average weekday daily traffic coming over the causeway onto Sanibel during this week was 10,283 vehicles per day. Weekends averaged 9,721 vehicles per day coming onto the Island. The weekday average vehicle count leaving the Island was 9,979 per day, with weekends averaging 9,611 per day.

A reasonable benchmark of the peak PM volume of a high volume sit down restaurant (Doc Ford’s) would fall between a 4:30 p.m. through 7 p.m. time window. Traffic east bound from Casa Ybel to the Causeway and traffic northbound up Lindgren Boulevard to the Causeway during this weekday time period averaged 2,151 vehicles per day. Over a 2.5 hour period 860 vehicles per hour were trying to leave the Island. An average of 22 percent of all vehicles that came over the Causeway onto Sanibel each weekday was attempting to leave the Island during a 2.5 hour window. On Wednesday of last week (2/4/15) at 5:05 p.m., Periwinkle eastbound was backed up to Tarpon Bay Road. The Periwinkle/Tarpon Bay intersection was gridlocked. Cars backed up north on Tarpon Bay to San Cap Road, and south on Tarpon Bay well past Lily’s. The mood of motorists in this gridlock was sorely tried as angry horns reflected frustration.

Now let us imagine that Doc Ford’s is adding an additional 100 vehicles per hour to this mix on Tarpon Bay Road. Sanibel Island’s traffic exodus gridlock uniqueness will be magnified, and take on new meaning.

The size of the proposed Doc Ford’s restaurant and its time sensitive operation, the site location next to a critical road junction, and the uniqueness of the Island’s roads and traffic patterns demand that an independent traffic impact study be done. The City has current data for analysis. Residents and property owners of the Island expect the best professional due diligence from the Planning Commission. The car counting analysis of dissimilar businesses presented three times by the petitioner’s engineering firm is wholly inadequate.

Michael Faeth