Winter Park continues to strive to be a pedestrian- and bike-friendly community, but are some projects impacting a firefighter’s route to your home?
Some emergency responders say it’s putting them in a pinch.
Deputy Fire Chief Patrick McCabe spoke to Winter Park’s Transportation Advisory Board last Tuesday about how certain projects in the city – both existing and planned – have forced firefighters to find new routes to keep them responding to calls on time.
McCabe said that one project that has indirectly held up emergency vehicles is the addition of bike lanes along Cady Way. Firefighters have been forced to take alternate routes to reach areas behind the Winter Pines Golf Course and the south end of the city toward Corrine Drive.
“Over on Cady Way you all put the cycle track in,” McCabe said. “Cool concept, but for us it squeezed down the street. When you take into account people who have yard people doing their lawns and trash days with the trash cans, it really pinches us down and slows us down. For us, every second counts.”
Another project that’s on the horizon that’s raised concerns is the plan to cut Denning Drive from four lanes to three, with the middle lane becoming a dedicated left-turn lane. The leftover space will become a pathway for pedestrians and cyclists on the east side of the street.
McCabe said that Denning Drive is a major route the fire department uses to get to the south side of the city, and that any reduction in space could add precious seconds to their response times. Firefighters will likely take U.S. Highway 17-92 instead, he said.
“We now have a wide-open road that we’re going to skinny down,” McCabe said. “Great for bikes. Great for pedestrians. Real bad for 20-ton fire trucks that are trying to weave their way around buses.”
Winter Park Traffic Manager Butch Margraf assured that the city tries to work closely with the fire department to let them know where construction is happening and where roads are narrow so they can find alternate routes.
McCabe told the Transportation Advisory Board last Tuesday that the Winter Park Fire Department would like to be part of their meetings moving forward. The department continues to meet response times they set for themselves, but more involvement at the meetings could help them continue to preserve their track record, he said.
“Our goal is always to be 90 percent of the time at 6 minutes and 30 seconds to any call in the city,” McCabe said. “It makes it tougher for us any time we do traffic calming or anything like that.”
“We appreciate everything you all do. The city’s a much better and healthier place because of bike [paths] and the walkability – it just definitely does have an impact.”