I take issue with Ray McNulty’s 32963 columns arguing against the proposed lane reduction of HW60 for half a mile through Vero’s Historic Downtown. Readers will benefit from an alternate position on this highly polarized debate.
Residents’ view on twin pairs. I am not aware of any fact-based tally of greater Vero residents’ position on the proposal, yet Mr. McNulty makes unsubstantiated statements that most of us oppose it. Further, we are in the middle of a series of public meetings aimed at educating residents on the concept. There remains a huge amount of confusion, with many falsely assuming that all of HW60 would be narrowed rather than just a few blocks through downtown. There are various ways the proposal may change, including eliminating parallel parking and bike lanes.
Main corridor number of lanes in peer cities. Why does Vero need a seven thru lane main corridor and evacuation route when similar-sized cities — Sebastian, Melbourne, Daytona, and St. Augustine — have only four thru lanes? Particularly, since the proposal only narrows lanes in a half mile downtown stretch. Ft. Lauderdale has six lanes, but it is many times larger than Vero ever will be. Perhaps we should promote Vero as “The Only Mid-sized Florida City with a Seven Lane Main Corridor!”
Root cause of HW60 back-ups. Almost all tales of backups on HW60 that I have heard relate to stretches well west of downtown Vero. They are likely caused by traffic from the north and south funneling into HW60 in route to the major stores, the mall, outlet shops and I-95. Other possible issues may include: too short left turn-only lanes, stoplight timing/synchronization, accidents and seemingly-forever construction. I expect that Kimley Horn will offer their expertise on current HW60 backups in an upcoming public meeting.
Minimal increase in travel time through Twin Pairs. Though counterintuitive, traffic flow experts assert that an orderly two thru-lane city street with 30-35 mph speeds actually can accommodate more vehicular thru-put than a four lane 50 mph one because cars need to space out with increased speed, and the chaos of drivers seeking the fastest of four lanes so they can save a few seconds as they transit through downtown. Kimley Horn’s analysis concludes that lane reduction will increase peak period travel time 40 seconds.
Prerequisites for Vero downtown renewal. Stantec Consulting Services’ presentation very clearly tied lane reduction and traffic calming to property owners’ and developers’ willingness to take the commercial risk associated with building residential apartments and condos downtown. They also said that an expanded downtown residential community is necessary to provide sufficient activity for businesses to strive there.
Demand for downtown residential units. It’s my personal belief that there is plenty of demand for middle-income rental apartments and condos, particularly in a walk-able, shaded and vibrant city center. One where couples can survive with one car; where seniors can prosper without one; where Cheers-like spontaneous social interaction happens without joining private clubs; where Vero business workers can live without having to commute an hour.
Cost of Twin Pairs. It is unclear the extent to which the $2 million cost of twin pairs will be paid for by the Vero Beach taxpayers, the property owners or business operators. Further, this is an early estimate that may be imparted by changes in scope that come out of the current process. In last weeks’ City Council meeting on the Vero Beach Downtown Renewal Plan, a funding mechanism was discussed, and property owners expressed a willingness to participate in the cost of shared downtown infrastructure development and maintenance. Further, the downtown market study said there will be $36 million in incremental yearly retail revenue to downtown businesses.
Maligning respected civic leaders. Anyone questioning whether the current Vero Council Members support the twin pairs proposal for personal reasons do not know them the way I do. They love our city and truly believe lane reduction is key to reversing decades of city center decline without materially impacting travel time.
Clearly, there are multiple points of view on the HW60 lane reduction issue, and Mr. McNulty only presented his personal opinion. We all owe it to the community to understand the facts as well as the points of view of both sides. I hope this helps a bit. Please attend the next public session on November 16th at the Community Center which starts at 5:30.