Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article do not reflect those of Let's Talk Vero. CitizenTalk is a new feature open to all Vero Beach and Indian River County residents where they may express their opinion on a wide range of issues to stimulate dialogue and civic engagement. Any opinions expressed are the author's alone.
submitted by Robert (Bob) Jones Since the 32963 newspaper does not publish reader responses on their opinion pieces, I ask Let's Talk Vero to post the following as a rebuttal to Ray McNulty’s columns arguing against the proposed lane reductions on HW60 for half a mile through Vero’s Historic Downtown District. Your readers will benefit from various positions on this highly polarized proposal, and Let's Talk Vero is an ideal forum for consolidating all of them. Residents’ view on the Twin Pairs proposal. I am not aware of any fact-based tally of Vero residents’ views on the proposal, yet Mr. McNulty makes unsubstantiated statements that most 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 have a reduced number of lanes rather than just a few blocks through downtown. There are various ways the proposal may change, including eliminating some or all of the parallel parking and the bike lanes. Main corridor lanes in Vero’s peer cities. Why does Vero need a seven-through-lane main corridor and evacuation route when similar-sized cities — Sebastian, Melbourne, Daytona and St. Augustine — have only four, particularly, since the proposal only reduces lanes in a half-mile downtown stretch. Fort Lauderdale does have six lanes, but it is many times larger than Vero ever will be. Perhaps we should rebrand our city as “The Only Mid-Sized Florida City with a Seven-Lane Main Street!” 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. These are likely caused by traffic from the north and south funneling into HW60 en route to the major stores, the mall, outlet shops and I-95. Other possible issues may include: left-turn-only lanes that are too short, stoplight timing/synchronization gaps, accidents and, seemingly-forever, construction. Perhaps 58th Ave and HW60 will one day require an overpass. 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’ research finds that an orderly two lane city street with 30-35 mph speeds actually has more vehicular throughput than a four lane 45-50 mph one because cars need to space out with increased speed, and the chaos of drivers currently seeking the fastest of the four lanes in order to save a few seconds as they transit through downtown. Kimley-Horn’s analysis concludes that lane reduction will increase peak period travel time through downtown by 40 seconds and be safer. Prerequisites for Downtown Vero renewal. Stantec Consulting Services’ presentation very clearly tied lane reduction and traffic calming in the downtown blocks to property owners’ and developers’ willingness to assume the commercial risk associated with building residential units and condos downtown. They also said that an expanded downtown residential community is absolutely critical to provide sufficient activity for consumer-oriented businesses to thrive. Demand for downtown residential units. It’s my personal belief that there is plenty of demand for middle-income rental units and condos, particularly in a walkable, shaded and socially 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 having to join private clubs; where Vero's business and essential workers can live without having to commute an hour. Cost of Twin Pairs. It is unclear the extent to which the estimated $2 million cost of Twin Pairs work will be paid for by the Vero Beach taxpayers, the property owners, business operators or even grants. Further, this number is an early estimate that may be impacted by changes in scope coming out of the current public review process. In last week's 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 determined that there is $36 million of incremental yearly retail revenue potential in a vibrant Vero Downtown, and that will drive increased property and sales tax revenue for the city. Maligning respected civic leaders. Anyone suggesting that personal reasons drive the current Vero Council Members’ support for Twin Pairs lane reduction do not know them the way I do. They love our city and truly believe lane and speed reduction are key to reversing decades of city center decline, and that lane reduction will not materially impact travel time through town. Clearly, there are multiple points of view on the HW60 lane reduction issue, and Mr. McNulty only presented his personal opinion, without citing any facts or expert opinions to support his conclusions. We owe it to the community to understand all points of view. I truly hope stakeholders interested in this proposal attend the next public session on November 16th at the Community Center. Thank you, Let's Talk Vero, Robert (Bob) Jones Vero Central Beach resident and homeowner
Retired with no business interests in Vero Beach
About the author:
Bob and his wife Pam discovered and fell in love with Vero in 2012-2013 while voyaging south from Annapolis in their cruising sailboat. By 2015, they became full year Central Beach residents, active tennis players and increasingly-involved in Vero civic life. Bob has chaired the city’s Finance Commission for the past four years, is on the board of Indian River Neighborhood Association and is a past commodore of the Vero Beach Yacht Club. He held VP positions in Fortune 100 companies, retiring from Cisco Systems in 2011. Earlier in his career and part time after retirement he was a business strategy consultant. His professional experience includes overseas roles based in Switzerland, Singapore, London and Puerto Rico. He holds an electrical engineering degree from USC and an MBA from Northwestern University