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Joint traffic management meeting trims list of options

By Staff | Aug 6, 2015

The joint meeting between the Sanibel City Council and Planning Commission produced seven focal avenues to be researched to try and alleviate the traffic problems which inflicts the island for about 12-15 weeks out of the year.

Between the time of February through April, the gridlocked caused during the busy season on Periwinkle Way has been a sour issue for Sanibel residents for decades.

In an ongoing effort by the Sanibel City Council to explore ways to at least curb some of the hassle of clogged traffic on the island, a joint meeting was held Monday, Aug. 3, with the Planning Committee to trim a list of potential solutions.

“We are looking at this from a macro standpoint and will turn it into micro after we start looking at the data,” said Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane. “The overall strategy is to lighten up the traffic.”

The three categories, which were formed by the City Council from a previous traffic management workshop included the use of technology, behavior modifications and hard scapes.

The three options technology offers, which was adapted by the City Council and Planning Commission for staff to research included real-time apps, advance signage with real time date with apps and navigation systems and cameras/video streaming apps.

Behavior modifications used two options in relocating special events off of Periwinkle and educate visitors to modify behavior based on data of what is the peak time of traffic and when to avoid it.

Hard scapes included developing a shared use path on both sides of Periwinkle and creating no left turns during certain hours, or adding addition left turn lanes on Periwinkle.

“Our goal is to have good ideas for the (city) staff to work with,” Ruane added.

One popular suggestion among Sanibel residents is to raise the toll of the Causeway, so to potentially thin out the day trippers or visitors who cross the bridge onto Sanibel.

But that isn’t a viable option, Ruane said, since the Causeway is run by Lee County, and it would be their call to raise tolls, not the City of Sanibel’s.

“Lee County receives 79-percent of the tolls collect from the Causeway and Sanibel receives 21-percent,” Ruane said. “So that will not be the easy fix.”

The most well received category is technology, because it’s an option which isn’t as expensive to enact and it will be available 12 months out of the year.

“We can create our own apps and make it real-time updates,” Ruane said. “The app ‘Waze’ which is one of the best realtime app.”

Other ways technology can be beneficial to helping alleviating traffic is to post advanced signage before the Causeway displaying the amount of time of waiting due to traffic.

Using cameras also would go into showing the public who are planning on visiting Sanibel, the congestion they may face if they see it live on their app.

Relocating special events off island, or at least off of Periwinkle, will be delved into. Popular events during the busy season draws in many more people, who drive onto the island and help create the congestion on Periwinkle.

“Maybe for some of the events, we can have those held in January and not in March, when the busy season is here,” said Councilman Chauncey Goss.

Another option was to increase beach parking tolls, which the City has direct control over, by using peak time pricing.

Entities such as the Sanibel Chamber of Commerce can also be involved in traffic management by helping visitors avoid the congestion by informing them of the peak times of traffic, as well.

The most expensive options which are on the table are the hard scape changes which could be done on Periwinkle.

Currently, the intersection of the entry to the Causeway, Periwinkle and Lindgren, is a part of a study being conducted by the Metropolitan Planning Organization involving roundabouts.

The study includes a list of 18 potential sites for constructing a roundabout, which would be state funded.

Public Works Director Keith Williams said the study is completely state funded and should be done within the next calendar year.

“The study will weed out the intersections with fatal flaws in them and will take two which are the highest ranking,” Williams said.

Vice-Mayor Mick Denham suggested more left turn lanes as a hard scape option.

“I’m leaning towards the hard scape solutions and improving (drivers’) ability to turn left,” Denham said. “But hard scape solutions are expensive and we’ll have to know how to budget for them.”

There was good attendance by the public for the joint traffic management meeting and plenty spoke their opinions on what can be done to help the quagmire which happens February through April.

Resident Claudia Burns favored the talk of technology and what it could bring.

“Social media is a very big tool, it’s practically free and very effective,” she said.

The live update apps also was favored by resident Bob Brooks.

“The day trippers will see how much time it would take to get over here and maybe one car will turnaround, but that alleviates the traffic by one car, at least,” Brooks said. “Roundabouts work great, but only when there isn’t a lot of traffic.”

Mike Miller, who was representing the Committee of the Islands (COTI), added the big reason traffic is increasing is because the population of Lee County is blowing up.

But traffic is not a new problem and it’s one which probably will be around as long as Sanibel is a paradise destination for visitors, said Councilman Marty Harrity.

“This conversation is not unique, I’ve been here on Sanibel for 24 years and every year, for 12 to 14 weeks, there is heavy traffic,” Harrity said. “Personally, I don’t think we’ll ever solve the problem, because we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world and people want to come here.”

With the list trimmed down to seven ideas, work will be started to collecting the data by City officials, who will continually update the City Council on the progress.