- March 2, 2023
The Winter Garden City Commission meeting discussed traffic concerns and solutions Thursday, March 23.
City Manager Jon C. Williams started the conversation by giving a presentation on the city’s traffic management policy/plan.
The city plans to take a three-phase approach to address the traffic concerns: monitor, enforcement and control.
“We can say that we get traffic complaints on a daily basis, if not multiple times per day,” he said. “We’ve been talking about some plans and some policies, so I felt like it was a great opportunity to kind of bring this forward tonight, to let you know where we are with some of this stuff and to let everybody know that we are taking it very serious and trying to move something forward to address the immediate concern, as well as a plan for the long term.”
Williams explained the plan does not require each of the phases to be done in succession; rather, it is all being worked on at the same time.
MONITOR, ENFORCE, CONTROL
The City Commission approved recently an extension of the professional services agreement with Toole Design Group.
Williams said the city asked the organization to create an integrated transportation policy plan. Major components of the plan include a safety action plan, speed management and traffic calming.
The primary objectives of monitoring are being responsive to the public’s requests and concerns; increasing safety, walkability, beauty, place-making and quality-of-life objectives; support efficient and effective decision making process; simplify the prioritization, budgeting and funding of transportation projects; supporting and advancing the balance of the city’s vision; and position the city for federal transportation funding.
For phase one, the city will focus on three tasks: a citywide traffic-calming plan, a vision zero policy and a safety action plan.
“The framework for the vision zero policy and the safety action plan will be what is required for us to participate in requests for some of the federal funding as we move forward,” Williams said.
Regarding enforcement, the city plans to utilize the Winter Garden Police Department as its primary means.
The department has currently 95 full-time employees with nine vacancies and three conditional offers.
Williams said from November 2022 through March 8, 2023, the city made 3,067 citywide traffic stops and issued 1,093 citations.
The city also plans to explore the use of technology to help with enforcement.
State law prohibits the use of automated devices to issue citations; red-light cameras are the exception.
However, Williams said the city has been looking at a speed-camera and warning-notice system, which would not only bring awareness to registered vehicle owners but also serve as an educational tool that improves safety. Drivers could receive a warning with images showing when and where they were seen speeding — and the amount of the ticket they would have received.
If implemented, the city would have access to a wealth of traffic data on driver behavior through the cameras.
“This information could potentially be uploaded, if we so choose, to the city’s website,” he said. “And if we were to do that, I just want to make the point that we would not be sharing any private or personal information. … This information would just help us deploy our resources to the areas in which we are seeing the most speeding occur.”
In terms of control, Williams discussed both permanent and temporary solutions to traffic calming.
“Really, the difference between the two is going to be aesthetics, cost and time,” he said. “We have had a longstanding prohibition against the use of speed bumps, humps and tables, and we still have that same way of thinking. We do not support them because they’re an impact to public safety, and that’s the No. 1 concern that we have with them.”
As noted in the presentation, permanent solutions could include pedestrian islands, pedestrian pinch points and landscaping. Temporary solutions could include speed cushions or rubber curbing, which are usually easier to install and can be customizable but lack in the area of aesthetics.
Williams said the city has issued a notice to proceed with phase one to Toole Design Group, not to exceed $50,000, which will provide the city with a 100% citywide traffic-calming plan, along with a framework for the safety action plan and the vision zero policy.
He said the city should reach substantial completion within 16 weeks. MaDuring the interim budget process, Williams said staff plans to come back and request two additional motor officers and two community service officers dedicated to downtown. These numbers would increase the current full-time employees dedicated to traffic enforcement to six motors, two cars, one sergeant, one lieutenant and six community service officers.
Williams said staff would also like to purchase two trailer-mounted speed camera and warning notice systems, each unit not to exceed $25,000.
The plan can be used to incorporate permanent control solutions. For temporary solutions, Williams said staff would like to test two pilots: installing speed cushions to test effectiveness on Daniels Road and installing curbing to narrow the road west of Williams Road on Marsh Road.
Mayor John Rees said his No. 1 complaint is the driving habits of people through Winter Garden. He said he is in support, if possible, for hiring more police to do nothing but traffic control.
“Windermere, you don’t speed through Windermere … once the word got out,” he said. “I think we need to get that.”