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I drove down to Key West yesterday evening, to take in the N Roosevelt Blvd portion of the City Commission meeting. It had rained pretty good yesterday, and the left lane of N Roosevelt was swamped in numerous places. Left lane vehicles either came to a stop and then eased through the water, or they pulled over in the right lane and went around. It was bad enough with both lanes being 1-way inbound. I wondered how that was going to work, if N Roosevelt was made into a 2-way 2-lane road?
Here is the Key West Citizen’s report of last night’s City Commission N Roosevelt Blvd thrashings. You might wish to open today’s Citizen – www.keysnews.com – and see the photo of the school bus on N Roosevelt playing like an amphibious duck yesterday. My interjected thoughts in italics.
City OKs 2-way traffic on N. Roosevelt
FDOT to also add turn lanes by Oct. 15; businesses happy
BY GWEN FILOSA Citizen Staff
The city of Key West and state transportation officials Tuesday agreed to make all North Roosevelt Boulevard two-way, and to add turn lanes, by Oct. 15, as the long-term reconstruction project that began April 2012 continues.
Tuesday night’s meeting at Old City Hall was a calm affair compared to the noisy anger expressed Aug. 6 when a few business owners had pleaded for two-way traffic to save their bottom lines.
Rather than create two-way traffic without turn lanes along the entire 2.5-mile, $42 million construction zone, city commissioners accepted 6-1 the Florida Department of Transportation’s alternative plan:
Drivers will get a dedicated through lane headed north from downtown, while the two one-way lanes that run from the Triangle to Kennedy Drive remain. From Kennedy Drive to First Street, the boulevard will become three lanes, with one lane in each direction plus a middle turn lane to provide access to businesses on both sides of the road.
Except on heavy rain days like yesterday, several parts of the 3-lane will be 2-lane.
“It’s what we said on Aug. 6 we would deliver by December,” said FDOT’s Gus Pego, who presented the traffic lane changes.
The lone holdout, Commissioner Mark Rossi, said he couldn’t imagine the changes would do anything but cause trouble.
“It’s a love fest here, but the reality is, it’s public safety,” Rossi said before the vote. “I’m against it. I want to make it a point to everybody out here. Like me, don’t like me, I don’t care. Changing up here in the middle of the stream, you’re asking for problems.”
I’m in Mark’s camp, hope I’m proven wrong.
Two-way traffic along the entire boulevard without turn lanes would have caused major delays every time a motorist went to take a left, Pego said.
For sure. And on heavy rain days, pats of N Roosevelt would have been 1-useable lane.
Business owners said they were pleased with the new plan.
Donna Nelson, who said her toy store, Imagination Station, is almost tanking due to the road construction, thanked the FDOT officials for their work.
First Street to Eisenhower Drive will remain as is throughout the project: one lane in each direction.
Commissioners Tuesday also voted 7-0 to allow crews to work overnight if they have to, 24 hours, seven days a week. But crews will work only sparingly in the wee hours of the night, said A.J. de Moya, vice president of lead contractor the de Moya Group, of Miami.
After Gus Pego’s presentation to the City Commission, there was a break. I asked Pego if FDOT and the city had talked about the city’s noise ordinance and disturbing the N Roosevelt neighborhoods if work was done at night. He said yes, that’s what led to the plan FDOT came up with. So there you have it. The City Commission and FDOT went for the longer construction time because it would go easier on those neighborhoods than two-work shifts a day, or round the clock. Filosa and the Citizen have yet to report that.
Rossi suggested pushing back the changes until Nov. 15, after Key West’s annual Goombay Festival and Fantasy Fest.
“Maybe it will work,” he said of starting it earlier. “If it does and I’m wrong, I’ll admit to it. Right now, I think you’re making a big mistake. You’re certainly making a big mistake before Oct. 15.”
Commissioner Teri Johnston also shared concerns about safety, saying the inside lane that runs past the Overseas Market shopping center is in bad shape and takes on water when it rains.
Others on the dais cheered the changes, saying they were needed to help local businesses stay afloat.
That was not my take. Looked and sounded to me that all but Commissioner Yaniz were reluctant to approve the changes, but went along with the changes because of the N Roosevelt businesses. They seemed reluctant because of concerns about what 2-way traffic will be like, and because the adaptation to 2-way traffic will require more second shifts and night work and pretty much guarantee the road work cannot be completed early. The N Roosevelt business won out over public safety and traffic congestion concerns, and faster completion, which I feel is what they most need.
“I’d like to see this implemented tomorrow morning,” said Commissioner Tony Yaniz. “There are businesses out there today trying to make it one more week. Let’s get this done as soon as possible.”
Yaniz on Aug. 6 had used the word “arrogant” to describe FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad as the visiting state official stood before the dais, prompting Mayor Craig Cates to apologize to the secretary on his behalf. But Tuesday night, Yaniz championed the idea of the city and state leaders working together.
“If you fail, we fail, and if you succeed, we succeed,” Yaniz told the FDOT project team. “Let’s make a joint decision between FDOT and city staff.”
My impression of Yaniz, with whom I sometimes agree and sometimes disagree, is he always seems to be playing to an audience; grandstanding. I hear he intends to run for mayor next year, and the way he behaves on the dais looks like he is campaigning already. To his credit, Yaniz seemed disturbed by the news that the extra work shifts will not shorten the road work completion date.
Commissioner Teri Johnston also seemed disturbed by that news.
Prasad said Aug. 6 that the project was back on track to be completed July 21, 2014.
During Citizen comments, I said N Roosevelt is dangerous now, even when it has not rained. It will be more dangerous when it is 2-way traffic. I said the speed limit should be reduced to 15 m.p.h., that is prudent. The speed limit now is 25 m.p.h. Commissioner Jimmy Weekley
then asked Gus Pego about reducing the speed limit? Pego was not in favor. I had thought the big concern about going to 2-way was public safety, and, as far as I recall, I was the only person last night who suggested something that could be done to make N Roosevelt safer when it is a 2-way road.
Instead of trying to find a World War II DUC,
I see me using other roads than N Roosevelt.
There is a post today at goodmorningfloridakeys.com, which you should be able to reach by clicking on this link:
READ ALL ABOUT IT!!! ACLU sues Key West, Florida Keys Sheriff and County Commission for conspiring to prevent homeless people from drinking in public in Key West, by putting them in jail at huge cost to county taxpayers, while Key West encourages everyone else to drink until they can’t stand up.