Traffic calming measures on River Road finally addressed

New speed limit signs installed after push from residents

 

After nearly three years of town meetings, discussions between residents and city officials as well as a grassroots effort by neighborhood volunteers, frustrated residents are finally getting satisfaction: The speed limit on River Road is now 20 mph.

Danny Williams and Gary LaFrance, both traffic engineers with the city Public Works Department, get ready to install a 20 mph speed limit sign along River Road July 28.

Danny Williams and Gary LaFrance, both traffic engineers with the city Public Works Department, get ready to install a 20 mph speed limit sign along River Road July 28.

After petitioning homeowners door-to-door, something tangible has been done to calm the “dangerous” speeding traffic in front of their homes.

“People are very excited they are finally making progress after a few years of working on this,” said District 5 Councilwoman Lori Boyer, adding that she spoke with several River Road residents about the issue during a weekend get-together July 25. “People were talking about it and they are very pleased. The bottom line is, I didn’t hear any negative comments.”

On July 23 four variable-message signs – three on River Road and one on Arbor Lane – touting the upcoming speed limit change were posted as a weeklong prelude to when permanent signs were installed.

“I’m ecstatic!” said Pat Andrews, a River Road advocate who lobbied loudly to have the speed limit reduced. “I’m very grateful those signs are up. I want to thank Lori Boyer and the city for moving so expediently. This is an example of how community can rally together and work for the betterment and safety of all concerned,” she said. “Now that we have our signs, we need enforcement. Our law enforcement needs to know this is serious business. But by the grace of God, no one has been hurt.”

The permanent signs were installed July 28. Prior to the installation, variable message signs were posted for almost a week according to Florida law, said Andrews.

In his email to Boyer, Nelson Caparas, City Chief Traffic Engineer, said 10 new signs would be posted on River Road and the neighborhood had to share half the cost of the signs with the city. Each sign cost $200.

Caparas also wrote that three existing 30 mph signs had “reached their useful life” and would also be replaced with 20 mph signs. In addition, several stop signs and posts will be replaced in the area.

A notification letter about the change was sent to the Sheriff’s office and the Fire Chief, Caparas wrote.

Petitions gathered quickly

Andrews and her neighbor, Talmadge Hunt, took responsibility for canvasing River Road homeowners who favored the speed reduction. City Public Works Division Chief of Engineering and Construction Management Bill Joyce supplied volunteers with petitions to carry door-to-door during a town hall meeting hosted by Boyer June 15.

Public Works traffic engineers Danny Williams and Gary LaFrance installed 20-mph speed limit signs on River Road July 28.

Public Works traffic engineers Danny Williams and Gary LaFrance installed 20-mph speed limit signs on River Road July 28.

No less than 75 percent of the homeowners on the street had to sign in favor of reducing the speed limit from 30 mph to 20 mph for the change to be made, Joyce said. Signatures were elicited from 100 percent of the River Road homeowners who were contacted within a day or two of the town meeting, Andrews said.

After the petitions were signed, city officials verified the signatures by checking them against the property records to ensure the signatory was, in fact, the owner of the property in the affected area. Because the neighborhood had to pay half the cost of the new signs before they were installed, Andrews said she wrote out a personal check to the city for $1,000 to hasten the process. Each homeowner who signed the petition owes her $20, she said, and she will communicate with them by putting a note in their mailboxes.

“Hopefully everyone will pay me back,” Andrews said. “People are so good. They will, I know.”

Other neighborhood volunteers petitioned homeowners living on the adjacent streets, which feed onto River Road between River Oaks Road and Landon Avenue. Roads included in the overall petition drive were Sorrento Road, Largo Road, Arbor Lane, Elder Lane, Maple Lane, Laurel Road, Holly Lane, River Oaks Road and a small portion of Marco Place.

Public Works confirmed that at least 75 percent of the homeowners on these streets have approved of reducing the speed limit in the area surrounding River Road.  Their petitions are currently being verified with the property records, said James Croft, City Public Communications Officer.

Once the residents on these streets pay 50 percent of the cost of the new signs for their neighborhood, it will take approximately three weeks to finalize the locations of the signs, fabricate them and have them installed, Croft said.

Route now common detour

Construction on the Overland Bridge Expressway has made River Road and its adjacent streets an alternative thoroughfare for many commuters who seek to avoid heavy traffic along Hendricks Avenue, San Marco Boulevard and I-95.

Ever since roundabouts were built into San Marco Boulevard and River Road was used as a detour, residents have complained of the raceway made by speeding traffic in front of their homes, Boyer explained at the town meeting June 15. Unfortunately, drivers have continued to use River Road when the detour was discontinued, she said.

Although very little can be done to prevent commuters from using River Road as a throughway in San Marco, Boyer said she hopes the signs, which were placed near intersections of River Road and its feeder streets, will encourage drivers to slow down. “Every time they enter River Road there will be a sign,” she said. “So there is no way they cannot know.”

Brian Cox, a resident of nearby River Wood Lane, who daily walks his dog the length of River Road, said he is happy to see the speed limit reduced. “I think it is a good attempt. As an everyday dog walker, I see a lot of speeding vehicles,” he said. “This is the best thing they can do without installing speed bumps.”

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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