Can more be done to make Orange Avenue safer?
That’s the question the Florida Department of Transportation and the city of Winter Park are asking following an accident that killed two women on New Year’s Eve.
The crash took place at the intersection of Orange and Westchester avenues. According to a report from the Winter Park Police Department, suspect Justin Fonner was driving in excess of 100 mph on Orange Avenue when he T-boned a second vehicle pulling out of a driveway. The two 23-year-old women in the second car were killed in the crash.
The stretch of Orange Avenue surrounding that intersection currently has a speed limit of 35 mph and sees 14,000 cars a day, which is considered under-capacity.
A collaborative study between the city and FDOT shortly after the accident revealed there have been 11 crashes in the past two years.
Today, the Florida Department of Transportation is conducting a corridor safety study on the stretch of Orange Avenue from Clay Street to U.S. 17-92. That study could lead to some potential changes, including restricting movements from side streets to right turn only during peak hours, “de-widening” the road and providing speed message signs.
“Our study will concentrate on determining if any changes are needed to improve pedestrian/ bike safety through this corridor and if corridor traffic calming opportunities are warranted,” Florida Department of Transportation Communications Specialist Jessica Ottaviano said. “Additionally, we want to take a close look at the Clay Avenue intersection to determine if any improvements are warranted for this signalized intersection.”
The draft study should be available by the end of July, Ottaviano said.
In the meantime, Winter Park residents who live along Orange Avenue such as Brandon Colte Suggs continue to ask for assistance in making the road safer.
“I appreciate the commission’s time in discussing the turn situation at Westchester, but there is a larger issue at play on Orange Avenue,” Colte Suggs said at the May 14 City Commission meeting. “As someone who lives on that street and has to back onto Orange Avenue every day, it is a frightening experience, having to do that day-in and day-out. I know that I chose to live there, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want my community and my road that I live on to be safe.”
Colte Suggs also implored the city to investigate the road as a residential street, not a commercial road that would typically handle more traffic.
“Orange Avenue is a residential street,” he said. “There are two dozen homes in this stretch of Orange Avenue, so I would suggest that when you are considering this, look at other residential roads when you finally come to your official recommendations. I’ve lived there since August, and there have been four accidents at that intersection (of Orange and Westchester avenues).”
Winter Park Director of Communications Clarissa Howard said staff also is formulating a potential recommendation for the City Commission. Because Orange Avenue is a state road, FDOT must approve any recommendations or changes being made to the street.