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West Orange Times & Observer Thursday, Jun. 23, 2022 1 week ago

Town: Road closures will address traffic concerns

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Town Council members approved a temporary roadway closure of East Eighth Avenue at Main Street and East Seventh Avenue at mid-block on the line between the commercial and residential parcels at their Tuesday, June 14, meeting.
by: Annabelle Sikes Staff Writer

Town of Windermere residents now will reap the effects of a temporary solution to address traffic concerns along Oakdale Street — just not the solution they originally anticipated. 

Town Council members approved a temporary roadway closure of East Eighth Avenue at Main Street and East Seventh Avenue at mid-block on the line between the commercial and residential parcels at their Tuesday, June 14, meeting. 

Although the original business item on the agenda pertained to closing the southeastern quadrant of town at East Sixth Avenue, three of the four council members present, with Mayor Jim O’Brien absent and council member Molly Rose present on Zoom (allowing her to participate in discussion but not vote), voted to temporarily adopt the new plan, with Council Member Tony Davit dissenting. 

GrayRobinson is set to draft a resolution for the council’s July meeting stating that the roadway closure would include closing off a portion of East Seventh Avenue just east of The Art Room and closing off East Eighth Avenue.

In addition, the resolution would include creating left-turn-only signage and a possible diversion barrier at East Ninth Avenue and Oakdale Street heading north and south, and closing off East 12th Avenue and Chase Road.

ORIGINAL PLAN

Residents along Oakdale Street have expressed issues with cut-through traffic, speeding, stop sign running and aggressive driving behaviors for years. 

To review the situation, staff placed traffic devices along Oakdale Street. According to the town, the data collected indicated that drivers along Oakdale Street were within the 85th percentile — “the speed at or below which 85% of all vehicles are observed to travel under free-flowing conditions past a monitored point.” 

Staff conducted public meetings to address residents’ concerns and develop solutions including two public workshops in April, a Long Range Planning Workshop in May, a Town Council Workshop in May and the Town Council meeting. 

Although the traffic data didn’t show a speeding issue, staff said they took the perceptions of aggressive driving and cut-through driver negligence as a catalyst to create a solution. 

After the public meetings, the idea to close off some access roads into the quadrant was proposed, and town staff brought the idea to the LRP for recommendation. The LRP moved forward with a recommendation to close off the following roads from East Sixth Avenue into the southeast quadrant: East Seventh Avenue, Bessie Street, Magnolia Street and Oakdale Street, as well as closing off East 12th Street and Main Street. The LRP then requested approval from the Town Council to implement the plan.

At the May 26 workshop, the LRP recommendation was presented, and council members concluded the recommendation should be brought to the June meeting for final consideration.

ADOPTED PLAN

However, not all were in favor of the original proposed closures. 

Windermere resident Martin Collins, who has lived in the town for more than 30 years, said the traffic study was inconclusive and better alternative solutions were available.

“The Oakdale residents are putting forward a solution that has the least impact on their neighborhood,” Collins said. “We do not know what the size of this potential problem is and what we are trying to fix. … Why are we shutting down our streets for something where we don’t know the size of the problem?”

Windermere resident John Hovey, whose family has lived on Bessie Street for more than 50 years, also had concerns. 

“I think you have flawed data, I think you’re making a big mistake by closing anything right now, because there’s just not enough information,” he said. “You’re limiting the EMS response. You are extending their response time by blocking these streets. …If you block these streets there will be litigation brought to the front door of this town and everybody here will be responsible.”

At last week’s meeting, Council Member Bill Martini presented the alternate option to close East Eighth Avenue at Main Street and East Seventh Avenue at mid-block. He said the solution would be simpler to implement, less inconvenient for many and achieve the same results.

Council members Andy Williams and David agreed with the new proposition. Davit disagreed and said he was concerned about the lack of notification to residents as the issue expanded from the closure of a single area to many, as well as the lack of engineering.

Thirty days prior to implementation, Town Manager Robert Smith will work with staff to create message boards and social-media posts about the closures. In addition, town staff will coordinate with the local first response teams, USPS and solid waste management 30 days prior to the implementation. 

Three months and six months after the plan is in place, the town will conduct a traffic analysis and hold public input workshops for residents. All complaints will be documented. If the program is successful, staff will draft an ordinance for permanent closures. 

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Annabelle Sikes is a staff writer at the West Orange Times & Observer, Southwest Orange Observer and OrangeObserver.com. She graduated in May 2021 from the University of Central Florida with a bachelor's degree in journalism and a minor in sociology.  Her past...

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