- December 21, 2022
WINDERMERE – A new Windermere resident who moved into a home on Oakdale Street expressed exasperation over what has become an all-too-common reality in the town’s streets: traffic, speeding and drivers who fail to obey stop signs.
Brandi Haines said she moved into the town partially because of the Windermere Police Department’s reputation as a police force that strictly adheres to handing out citations for traffic violations.
But Haines was displeased to realize, months after moving into her new home, that the heavy traffic in Windermere during the workweek creates an unsafe environment for children.
“I don’t think we were really aware of what the situation was when we first moved in on Oakdale Street, and I think things have been continuing to get worse, even since my husband and I have been here — and it’s not strictly the speeding,” Haines said during the public forum section of the Dec. 12 Town Council meeting. “I live at the intersection of Oakdale Street (and East Ninth Avenue), and I can watch, probably in the time span of just 15 minutes, at least five cars run that stop sign. And this is all afternoon long on every workday of the week.”
Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn said the issue is not isolated to Oakdale Street and can be seen almost anywhere in town during rush-hour traffic.
“It’s not just Oakdale (Street),” he said. “It’s Magnolia (Avenue), its Second (Avenue) in certain areas, it’s First (Avenue) in certain areas. ... What really troubles me after reading the statistics is that it’s us — it’s our residents who are doing this.”
Haines added that the situation has worsened since she moved to Windermere and that she has repeatedly discussed her concerns with the Windermere Police Department. Her conversations, she said, have left her wondering whether the town is in need of more officers to patrol the streets during rush hour and hand out tickets.
“If we have multiple streets with this problem, and there’s not enough police to have them at every single one, maybe we need a bigger police force,” Haines opined. “But there really does need to be a solution that’s not, ‘Well on Friday your street might be safe, but on Tuesday through Thursday, people are just going to be running the stop signs and you’re supposed to explain that to the children in town.’ I understand the constraints our police force has because you can’t be in so many places at once, but I think we need to nail people with citations. That’s the only way people are going to quit wanting to cut through our streets.”
Windermere Police Chief David Ogden attributed the problem to an increase in traffic volume, which has increased annually according to studies, he said.
Ogden also strongly emphasized the problem is not a law-enforcement issue but rather a traffic engineering one.
“It’s been an ongoing issue,” Ogden said. “We’ve done three traffic surveys out there, and we do know that in the last year-and-a-half, there’s been an increase in traffic. ... One of the biggest issues is that we have about 20,000 vehicles coming through here every day that like to cut through to avoid the main road, and it’s not illegal to do so.”
Bruhn remarked that he has been working on collaborative roadway projects with the city of Ocoee and Orange County that might present a possible solution, but he noted such projects are still in their infancy and are likely “years away” from becoming a reality.
“Here’s the problem: We have more than 18,000 people every workday who come through this town,” Bruhn said. “And Orange County is doing absolutely nothing to buy us any kind of relief. ... But at some point, there’s got to be a relief.”