A project that could have reshaped one of Winter Park’s most notorious intersections won’t be pursued any further by the city.
Winter Park city commissioners decided at their Feb. 25 meeting not to support a project that would have given the intersection of West Lyman and South New York avenues a major facelift, bringing it from a four-way intersection down to three.
The intersection often creates confusion for drivers because of its large size and the railroad crossing that goes through the middle.
City staff presented the public works project before the City Commission to gauge its interest.
According to the City Commission agenda, the project would have entailed closing off Lyman Avenue on the east side of the railroad tracks.
A new curb would have been established through the intersection along the east side of New York Avenue, and drivers heading west down Lyman Avenue between city hall and the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce building would have come to a dead end.
The idea stemmed from the ongoing quiet-zone project happening at the railroad crossings throughout the city.
“In reviewing the quiet zone gates and their installation, it was determined that approximately half the cost of the whole improvement or about ($300,000) is related solely to the New York/Lyman intersection,” the agenda stated. “This intersection has long been a difficult one as its size and spanning of the railroad tracks often results in driver confusion at the four-way stop.”
The project not only would have saved about $75,000 in funding for the installation of the quiet zone gates but also would have created additional parking spaces along Lyman Avenue with a potential redesign of the City Hall parking lot.
That area of Lyman Avenue that comes to a dead end could have been used as an event space, as well, and removing the stop signs on New York Avenue at the new three-way intersection would have improved traffic flow, according to the agenda.
But the majority of the City Commission didn’t think the project was necessary.
“I’m not ready to do this — I don’t want it,” City Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel said. “I’ve gone over there, and I’ve driven it, and I’ve looked at it, and I’m just not seeing that the advantages that you listed are things that we would be looking for. … This just does not feel like the right time to move forward on something like this.”
City Commissioner Greg Seidel said the project could make sense but that the city would have to consider all of the impacts to the surrounding area.
“You really need to be able to evaluate changes to know what the unintended consequences are,” he said. “At this location, if you remove the stop signs and you have the trains, whoever is coming down Lyman would have to wait for all the cars to move before they can pull out. If you’ve got a big queue backed up and now you have cars backed up, they can be sitting to turn left until three lights on Fairbanks, unless someone lets them cross.”
However, Mayor Steve Leary said he had no issue with city staff looking into the project.
“There’s every reason to take a shot at this,” Leary said. “We’ve been complaining on this dais since I’ve sat up here for the last seven years that this is a challenging intersection. Staff is bringing us an opportunity to talk about it, to do more due diligence on this project. If it comes back and we’re not happy, then we don’t have to do anything.”
Ultimately, the project did not receive enough support from the City Commission for staff to look into the project further.
ROLLINS COLLEGE PROJECTS APPROVED
Commissioners also gave final approval for a new parking
garage at the Rollins College campus and an expansion project for The Alfond Inn.
A new 784-space parking garage is now ready to be built at the southwest corner of Fairbanks and Ollie avenues on top of an existing surface parking lot. The new garage will result in 596 net new spaces on campus.
The long-awaited expansion project for The Alfond Inn will include 73 additional hotel rooms, a 12,000-square-foot spa/health club and 2,140 square feet of new meeting/gallery space.
The expansion will further support the students at Rollins College in the form of scholarships from the Harold Alfond Foundation. Net operating income from The Alfond Inn will be directed to the scholarship fund for the hotel’s first 25 years or until the endowment principal reaches $50 million.
“I’m very excited to bring this project forward,” Rollins College President Grant Cornwell said. “Since I came to Rollins, the discovery of the role that The Alfond Inn plays in the community in Central Florida and for the college has been very inspiring.
“What excites me as the president of Rollins is the additional revenue that will subsidize and underwrite scholarships for students to attend Rollins that couldn’t afford to otherwise,” he said. “This is just scholarship money sitting on pavement right now.”
A COMMENT ON THE INVOCATIONS
Local resident Michael Perelman spoke before the City Commission with concerns about Winter Park not representing all faiths in the invocation segment at the start of every meeting.
He pointed out that from 2016 to 2018, there have been 67 City Commission meetings, and that 64 of them started with an invocation by someone who identified themselves as Christian. The other three were given by the Central Florida Freethought Community — a nonprofit organization that focuses on the separation of church and state.
“There have been no presentations in that period by any other religious group — Jewish, Hindu or Muslim,” Perelman said. “That’s not diversity.”
City Manager Randy Knight said the city has reached out to local synagogues to find a speaker of the Jewish faith but has not been able to find someone willing to participate.
The city will increase its efforts to bring more diversity to its invocations, Knight said.