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Photo by: City of Maitland - Designs for a new downtown are being firmed up in Maitland, but battles are still being fought over what gets developed.
Winter Park / Maitland Observer Thursday, Sep. 10, 2015 5 years ago

Maitland works to take ownership of downtown traffic

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Taking control of traffic
by: Sarah Wilson Staff Writer

The city of Maitland is exploring different avenues to curb traffic in its downtown district. One of those routes includes taking one eponymous cut-through street into city custody.

At their last City Council meeting on Aug. 24, members of the Maitland City Council agreed to jumpstart talks with Orange County about taking over ownership of Maitland Avenue. Having control of the road would allow the city to consider putting the street on a “diet,” as proposed in the city’s 2004 Maitland Area Transportation Study, which would further discourage commuters to use the road as a cut-through to and from U.S. Highway 17-92 and Maitland Boulevard.

The proposed diet would take Maitland Avenue down to one lane in each direction, with parallel parking on either side.

Mayor Dale McDonald proposed reopening talks with the county to take over the road, after a previous Council last year voted to table the discussions. He said that by calming traffic on the road, it could give downtown Maitland a better sense of place.

“It becomes its own little Maitland-branded street,” he said. “… We want it to be the best Maitland Avenue that it can be.”

But that rebranding comes with a cost. Maitland’s Public Works Director Rick Lemke estimated that taking over the road and its maintenance costs could cost the city upwards of $1 million to $1.5 million every 10 to 15 years – or roughly a budget of $150,000 every year.

The Council backed out of discussions to take over the road previously after Orange County proposed a list of restrictions that Maitland would need to follow if given custody of the road. That included keeping the speed limit on Maitland Avenue at its current rate of 35 miles an hour, which Councilmembers found counterintuitive with their plans of calming traffic on the road.

“I just don’t want the county telling me what I can and cannot do to the road,” Councilman Ivan Valdes said. “…That’s a deal breaker for me.”

Mayor McDonald said he’s hopeful that renewed discussions with the county could provide some wiggle-room within their requests. The Maitland city manager, public works director and Mayor McDonald are working to set up a meeting with members of Orange County’s public works team to reopen discussions to see if they can work out a better deal.

But it’s a deal that can’t be rushed into, said Councilman John Lowndes. Discussing downtown traffic calming measures, he said, gives him flashbacks to the calamity that followed traffic pattern changes when the intersection of Horatio Avenue and 17-92 went under construction in 2013.

“After the outcry of doing the intersection improvements out there… we were all almost run out of town,” he said.

This time, he suggested, the city should host workshops to allow public comment before approving major road project changes.

“We’re still the laughing stock for what we did on Horatio,” Councilman Valdes added. This time, he said, the city needs to do better.

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