CLEARWATER — The city is considering major changes for traffic on Clearwater Beach, turning two streets into one-way thoroughfares.
The proposal would turn Coronado Drive into southbound only, and Hamden Drive into northbound only.
This idea might draw opposition from some business owners on Coronado, which would see fewer cars. Residents of three side streets off Hamden may also need convincing, because they wouldn't be able to immediately turn left when they leave their neighborhoods.
But city engineers think the new setup would move traffic more efficiently. They say it would help avoid traffic tieups after two new parking garages open along Coronado.
City Council members appear receptive to the idea. They're talking about making the change in time for spring break.
The city will schedule a public meeting on Clearwater Beach within the next few weeks.
"I think this is a good idea," said Mayor Frank Hibbard. "I think the key is … we need to give everybody on the beach an opportunity to at least see these plans before we make a final decision. And to also understand that there's probably going to be some resistance."
This idea began to percolate this summer when the city decided to build a 300-space public garage fronting S Gulfview Boulevard. It will be next door to the Hyatt Aqualea Resort, which will open in December with a 750-space garage.
Both garages will exit at the rear of the buildings on Coronado. When beachgoers leave at the end of the day, hundreds of cars could be trying to turn left across traffic on Coronado to head toward the Clearwater Beach roundabout and leave the island.
"I just don't want to see people making left-hand turns coming out of those garages," said council member George Cretekos.
At a council meeting in June, Cretekos asked about turning Coronado and Hamden into one-way streets.
The city's traffic operations manager, Paul Bertels, said it would help traffic flow. But Bertels noted that businesses had previously opposed such a change when it was suggested in 1976 and 1988. And the mayor warned that merchants generally oppose one-way streets.
Bertels did an analysis of how the plan would work, then briefed council members. He predicted the new traffic pattern would shift more vehicles away from busy Coronado and onto little-used Hamden. He estimated that average daily traffic on Coronado would drop from 9,103 to 4,816 vehicles, but it would rise from 1,358 to 5,645 on Hamden.
Bertels said that restriping the roads and changing the signs would cost only about $10,000 and could be done in one night. He said Coronado's easternmost lane would become a turnaround lane at Coronado's south end, to keep traffic flowing in a loop.
The north-south road along the beachfront, S Gulfview Boulevard, would remain two-way.
Meeting in a work session Monday, most council members appeared to favor the plan.
"I don't want any left turners," said Carlen Petersen.
"We really don't have a choice here in my view, with the garages going up," Paul Gibson said.
Mike Brassfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4160.