Local residents are torn between safety and limiting traffic problems as one project aiming to make a Winter Park road more pedestrian-friendly takes its first steps forward.
The Winter Park Community Redevelopment Agency Board voted on Monday to approve funding for a road-narrowing project along Denning Drive from Webster Avenue to Fairbanks Avenue. The section of road would be cut down from four lanes to three, with the center lane serving as a dedicated left-turn lane.
The left over space on the east side of the road would be used to create a wider path open to cyclists and pedestrians.
But some residents spoke in opposition of the project, believing that reducing the street from four lanes to three would only create new traffic problems.
“If I had my way, I’d never drive Denning again, and I do drive it a great deal,” resident Jerry Shepp said. “But it doesn’t seem to make sense to me to narrow it down to three lanes when Lee Road is going to be extended and dump even more traffic that’s going to end up on Denning.”
Resident Mary Randall noted that the road has several bus stops, and that traffic would often be held at a standstill.
“There is heavy bus traffic along Denning Drive; what happens when you get stuck behind a bus and there’s no way to get around it?” Randall said. “I drive Denning Drive every single day. It may look fine when you drive it, but it’s a very busy road. Narrowing it down isn’t going to be the answer to the problem.”
“I’m most in favor of making all areas bike-friendly, but I don’t know if it makes sense to do Denning Drive.”
But other residents applauded the project, adding that the city needs to move toward more pedestrian-friendly roads and more bike paths.
“This is really an opportunity that’s a slam dunk,” resident Jamie Krzeminski said.
“Let’s make this a safer corridor that’s more efficient and more vibrant for all segments of the community.”
“[Cities in] Italy made the decision to put the pedestrian at the top of the planning mode and vehicles at the bottom – pedestrians first, cars last,” resident Jeffrey Blydenburgh said. “I think we should think about that.”
According to a report from engineering consultant firm Comprehensive Engineering Services Inc., roadways that are good candidates for similar road narrowing projects see average daily traffic of 20,000 vehicles per day (vpd) or less. A 24-hour traffic count conducted along Denning during a weekday last October showed the road saw approximately 8,900 vpd, well below the 20,000 vpd threshold, the report read.
“I travel [the road] pretty often and I’ve gone through the reports,” Mayor Steve Leary said. “It was hard for me at first to see how three lanes was actually going to be safer than four lanes, but I have to trust the experts that have weighed in.”
The CRA board approved $500,000 for the construction of the project, but determined that the actual design requires more work, along with more input from local residents.
Winter Park’s fiscal year 2015/2016 budget, which includes the Denning Drive project, will go for final approval before the City Commission in September.