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First phase of Sanibel’s traffic strategy plan could be seen soon

By Staff | Jan 27, 2016

After years of discussion with very little action about Sanibel’s number one topic year-round – traffic – there potentially could be concrete steps taken by the end of February to hopefully curb the amount of cars coming across the causeway and clogging up Periwinkle Way.

City of Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane today announced a comprehensive strategy to help mitigate peak traffic on the island during the winter months, including a video message for visitors available on the city’s website at www.MySanibel.com and a written message about peak traffic times to be widely distributed.

Sanibel residents and visitors could be seeing the first phases of the traffic strategy being implemented as soon as the end of next month. Signs which will announce “Beach parking is full” and “90 minute wait” could be blinking to oncoming Sanibel guests traveling on Summerlin.

Live cameras, such as employed by Fort Myers Beach, could also be up and running during the same time, so to show live shots of traffic on the island visitors can see by going to the city’s website.

The steps of finding an application on phones is also being taken and could be decided upon very soon, as well.

“My goal, by the end of February, is to be live,” Ruane said. “I would say within a couple of weeks after the City Council’s action in our Feb. 16 meeting and if the County Commission passes everything, the signs and cameras should be up by the end of the February.”

Ruane estimates the cost which the City will incur to put up the signs and cameras will be $40,000.

“It will be the City’s responsibility, because the County looks at it as our situation and we’ll benefit from it, so we should pay for it,” Ruane said.

Based on workshops with Sanibel’s City Council and Planning Commission that identified strategic initiatives, a partnership of residents, represented by COTI (Citizens of the Islands) and CASI (Condominium Associations of Sanibel), the Chamber of Commerce, Realtors represented by the Sanibel & Captiva Island Association of Realtors, hoteliers, business owners, the Planning Commission and City Staff worked on a plan to implement the strategy.

The city also is coordinating efforts with Lee County and the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau.

“Our goal is to wholeheartedly welcome visitors to the island and ensure they have a positive Sanibel experience by providing helpful information about peak traffic times and tips for planning a successful visit,” Ruane said. “We’re also working with residents and local businesses to suggest ways to mitigate traffic during peak hours. We understand there is no quick or easy solution to seasonal traffic, but we are all committed to making steady progress through a number of long-term initiatives.”

The program includes:

  • Utilizing technology to provide real-time information to motorists. Plans include live-streaming of traffic conditions, instant-messaging traffic alert systems and electronic signage before the toll booth advising motorists of on-Island traffic conditions;
  • Hardscape to change traffic patterns. The City of Sanibel is participating in an MPO study to determine the feasibility of installing a roundabout on Sanibel to alleviate stop-and-go traffic;
  • ehavior modifications, including developing a culture of employers utilizing flex-time schedules and carpooling during the weeks of peak season; and
  • Information sharing to help residents and visitors make informed decisions. The city is disseminating detailed information about Sanibel’s traffic patterns so motorists can best plan their island travel to avoid peak congestion.

Through a careful analysis of traffic patterns, the city determined that nearly 13,000 vehicles come onto the island daily during peak season, with heavy on-bound traffic congestion concentrated between the hours of 8 a.m. and noon and heavy off-bound traffic from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m.

On a weekly basis during peak season, Saturday traffic volumes are the highest, and traffic volumes are the lightest on Sundays and Tuesdays.

“The message is pretty simple,” Ruane said. “Come early, stay late or stay the night on Sanibel. We want our message to be honest, so people will understand and they can make an informed decision.”

The message to visitors: Plan your visit to make it an enjoyable experience. Specifically:

  • Avoid driving on and off the island during these peak times.
  • Plan in advance to travel around the island by foot and bike.
  • Remember the best way to enjoy the island and avoid traffic is to stay on the island – have dinner and shop on island to avoid traffic delays.

The City’s message will be conveyed by many different carriers to reach the public. The two most important entities will be the VCB and the Lee County Hotel Association and all its associates.

“It will also need to be redundant, we’ll need to constantly be spreading our message and constantly giving brochures out to the hotels and VCB,” Ruane said. “We need to spread it through social media, the media in general and we need to keep it going constantly.”

The Mayor said the reception of Sanibel’s message on helping curb traffic has been positive.

“This can be a win-win for everybody,” Ruane said. “The County is another important partner and they need to go along with this. The impact may influence the revenue from the tolls from the causeway, because they get 79-percent of the tolls.

“But the County has been phenomenal sharing their data collected from the tolls on the causeway.”

The City Council’s monthly meeting will be Feb. 16, where action on approving funding to put up signs and live cameras will be voted on.