Town residents express concern over proposed barrier solution
Some town residents say the idea — meant to curb cut- through traffic — will have detrimental effects on the town.
| 12:43 p.m. February 20, 2019
The town of Windermere has long suffered from cut-through traffic issues brought on by the rapid development surrounding its borders.
Using data gathered by consultants hired to identify the extent of the problem and pinpoint which roads bear the brunt of cut-through traffic, town leaders have brainstormed what, if any, options existed to reduce the number of vehicles cutting through the town’s residential streets.
One such option — to use road barriers in strategic locations to divert traffic back onto the main thoroughfares — recently was targeted as a potential long-term solution. And during the town’s Feb. 12 Town Council meeting, council members planned to discuss whether it should first fund a 90-day experiment to test the efficacy of using road barriers at selected intersections.
The topic motivated about 40 to 50 residents to attend the meeting, and 16 spoke during the public forum to express their support for or opposition to the proposal.
Residents were divided on the issue. Those in opposition believe it would penalize residents, as well, and potentially delay emergency vehicles.
“On Oakdale, in particular, I think the speeding traffic is more of a concern than the cut- through traffic ... and we’re more concerned about our children and pets,” Windermere resident Dionne Beggrow said. “Personally, I’m opposed to the barriers for several reasons. The first one being the restrictions on emergency vehicles ... and a GPS might not tell them it’s not a two-lane road anymore and those are precious minutes that could cost lives. We’d rather see the money for the barricades go toward the police force (to help them) control the speeding traffic.”
Other residents were open to the idea but believed the barriers should be placed in other locations and submitted their own amended plans. Several expressed interest in experimenting with road barriers to see if they might prove to be an effective, albeit painful, solution.
“What I think is more important is getting our neighborhoods back,” Windermere resident David Sharpe said. “I don’t think we’re able to enjoy them today. ... One day we’re going to look around and say we should have done something. ... And I don’t think the residents really want our police to be enforcing traffic full-time. So we have to try something. I understand the tough decision (the council) has, but I just ask that we, at least, try it.”
After the public forum session, the council voted 4-0 to allocate $24,000 toward paying police officers overtime for the next 90 days to enforce speed limits in local roads receiving the most cut- through traffic.
Windermere Council Member Richard Montgomery expressed skepticism over using police officers to control the issue.
“The whole point of the experiment of the barriers was to determine a long-term solution for the town,” Montgomery said. “I’m not sure using overtime police officers is going to accomplish a long-term solution.”
Windermere Town Manager Robert Smith said it would cost $31,000 for a 90-day trial to fund the road-barrier experiment. By comparison, it would cost the town $80,000 to hire an extra police officer for the first year, due to a four-month training requirement.
Smith added the town will explore the feasibility of other resident-proposed solutions, including making Ridgewood Drive a one-way street. He also said he will see if urban planning may recommend more palatable solutions.