Road reconstruction to expand Park Avenue to the north will begin in June, with the goal of completion by August.
WINDERMERE After five-and-one-half years of planning, Windermere’s Park Avenue is set to undergo reconstruction this summer to expand the roadway and relieve traffic congestion near Windermere Elementary School.
At peak school hours in the morning and afternoon, parents and town residents often find themselves in somewhat of a bottleneck when traveling around Park Avenue and Main Street. Traffic backs up during student drop-off and pick-up times into the roundabout, which causes major delays and blocks emergency vehicles from reaching the town.
Windermere Town Council held a workshop Jan. 24 to discuss three viable expansion options and select one.
Town Manager Robert Smith said the town completed a pavement management index about a year ago because it did not have a capital-improvements program for maintenance and improvement of the road system. Based on data collected by contractors, the town ranked which roads should be repaired and when. Park Avenue was the first on the list.
“We have been working on trying to resolve the stacking issue in front of Windermere Elementary for a long time,” Smith said. “It lined up perfectly because we received some impact fee money from Estancia and some money from the Rosser Reserve.”
The $800,000 project — partially funded through impact fees — also will include a resurfacing from Main Street down to Windermere Country Club. The widening project will occur starting at Tryon Place east to Main Street.
“I think this project is very important as we have been working on it for a number of years,” Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn said. “As with most projects of this magnitude, money is a key factor, and without the $200,000 in traffic impact fees that we received from Estancia, we would still be in the planning stages.”
The three alternatives were widening to the north, widening to the south, or widening to both the north and south. Ultimately, Town Council members decided widening to the north would lessen the impacts to roads, trees and sidewalks.
With that option, there is only one property affected — Windermere Elementary. Landscaping impacts are minimal, and only three driveways total would be affected, Smith said. Additionally, the town will reconstruct 120 feet of the sidewalk, relocate the curb and add a curb and collection/conveyance system to the south.
If the town had decided to expand both north and south, eight total properties would have been affected, and both 11 driveways and a total of 1,190 feet of sidewalk would have to be reconstructed.
Smith said some Windermere Elementary parents were concerned the sidewalk would end up closer than it currently is to the roadway, but he assures them that it will be the same distance away or farther.
Curbing on the north and south will add an extra barrier there, and Smith said the town is looking into extending the school zone or 25-mph speed limit.
“By choosing the north option, I believe we chose the best option for public safety,” Bruhn said. “We did not select the cheap option. We selected the best option that should permanently alleviate the safety and traffic issues we currently have. We also recognized that we want to keep the sidewalks a safe distance from the road as we have many students walking and biking to the school, so safety is our No. 1 concern.”
Smith said the goal is to start the project at the beginning of June and have it done or substantially completed prior to when school resumes in August. There will be some slight traffic interruptions during that time with the construction, but ultimately, the town hopes to alleviate the current congestion issues.
“We’ve partnered with the local community that will be impacted by this project, but again it will be a relief to a huge chunk of the town of Windermere,” Smith said. “If you drive through around 3 p.m. (now), you’ll be bottlenecked in that area, and it’s been a perpetual issue for quite some time that will be relieved after the summer break.”
Contact Danielle Hendrix at [email protected].