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Update provided on island roundabout study

By Staff | Jun 15, 2016

Last week’s City Council meeting included a presentation that shared information about the Lindgren-Periwinkle Roundabout Study to calm concerns voiced by residents.

“I think there is a lot of anxiety,” Mayor Kevin Ruane said, adding that he wants the public to understand the roundabout study under way.

“The process we are going through is a methodological process of understanding any options that are available to us. By no means has this decision been made. By no means is there anything on the horizon in the near future. Since we are so premature in the process it’s great that we were able to rank among the top 18, but the process is still ongoing.”

Before Metropolitan Planning Organization Executive Director Don Scott provided his presentation, Ruane further pointed out the importance of the presentation due to the confusion regarding a possible roundabout at the four-way stop when entering the island. He said “rest assure” that there is not going to be a roundabout decision for quite some time.

Scott said the current roundabout study will not be completed until October of this year. The visual traffic simulation, tracking morning and afternoon peak traffic, is currently being worked on and should be completed soon.

The purpose of the study was to analyze roundabouts in 18 locations throughout Lee County, mostly in the jurisdiction of Fort Myers. The location that correlates with Sanibel Island that is being studied is Lindgren Boulevard, Periwinkle Way and Causeway Boulevard. Scott said from a technical ranking, Periwinkle, the Causeway and Lindgren came in number one and the cost is less than some of the other areas in the county to implement.

The cost has a rough estimate of more than $460,000, but a better estimate will be available after the 30 percent design is completed.

The initial screening for the location will include traffic data collection (collecting counts), traffic projections, operation analysis, a conceptual design and construction cost benefit. What’s still to come after the study is a 30 percent design for a visual simulation, an evaluation of roundabouts, safety, construction cost, operational performance and implementation.

The results from the roundabout study in October will decipher how to prioritize project development and environment and design phase, which is scheduled for next spring for the new fifth year. The next fifth year is 2021, Scott said, so they are talking about 2022, 2023 for future phases.

“That is just the initial phase and then you start talking about if there is any right of way construction, so it is many years out,” he said.

Once the October study is released, Scott said it will give them an opportunity to see if something needs to be prioritized in the next year, as well as hearing input from everybody.

Last week’s meeting also touched upon the traffic initiatives that were implemented this past season.

Ruane said they introduced an awful lot of traffic initiatives to help with the flow of traffic, one of which was through live stream cameras.

“It was a great success and people were really happy that they were able to see traffic at various intersections. We are starting to look at (and) continue to expand those and utilize those opportunities to allow people to see visually,” he said.

In addition, the city has worked with the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau and Lee County Hotel Association to help alleviate some of the traffic.

Ruane said the city put together a focus group to assist in viewing as many initiatives, including technology, as they could. The city also has begun looking at hardscape initiatives that are out there and available. He said there are many alternatives out there in regards to hardscape, which may or may not include roundabouts.

The city had hoped to have signage on the other side of the causeway in place to help with traffic this past season. Ruane said although they had a decrease in the traffic coming onto the island, he is not doing a victory dance because it could have been because of the rain and the discharge from Lake Okeechobee.

“When we are trending at 4 and 5 percent, we can certainly stop that trend. It’s a step in the right direction in realizing we just have an awful lot of data available to us. (We) can look at peak days and peak times and continue to look at special events we have here,” Ruane said.

He said they are trying to have an impact on traffic for the island by giving individuals as many tools as they can to inform them about traffic conditions.

“We are going to try to have one more meeting to try and conclude before we break for the summer and talk about some of the things we need to accomplish,” Ruane said. “We are trying to get a timeline associated with what we can do, what’s realistic and what is not.”

The city also had conversations with Lee County regarding additional traffic alternatives.

“They actually initiated a conversation about a different exit off the causeway and can we do that. Obviously we would have to expand the toll booth and there is obviously a significant cost associated with that. Each step we have, we will certainly cross and understand what the cost would be and what the potential benefits would be,” Ruane said.

He said the challenges they have are multiple. There is still more than $100 million in financing on outstanding bonds for the bridge and the city is the recipient of 21 percent of the net proceeds and the county is the recipient of 79 percent.

Ruane said he would imagine that they would have to come up with some way to incentivize them if they wanted to consider changing the toll booth. He said it probably would be a challenge to add additional debt.

One of the initiatives he hopes to have before next season begins is a permanent sign on the other side of the causeway. Ruane said they have asked the county if they could control the message from an iPad.

“We are not only asking to go on someone else’s property, but we are asking to have collaboration with the state. (We are) also looking at it to be there during season and we would like to control the message solely,” Ruane said. “We haven’t had any push backs, but it is not moving as quickly as I would like it to.”

He said the traffic initiative is going to be ongoing for quite some time.

The July City Council meeting will provide another update, as well as what some of the next steps will be for the traffic initiative.

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.