DUNEDIN — The city's transportation expert is urging Dunedin commissioners to reverse a controversial road closure, and instead install speed humps to discourage heavy traffic and speeding on Patricia Avenue.
The recommendation reflects the findings of a report compiled following the March closure of the avenue between McLean Street and San Salvador Drive.
At the time, commissioners said they voted 4-1 to close the road to quell years-old resident complaints about excess traffic and speeding through the residential neighborhood.
However, angry residents gathered at least 665 petition signatures, saying the blockade is not only inconvenient but threatens access to the neighborhood during medical or weather emergencies.
Traffic and transportation engineer Joan Rice says comparative data, gathered after Dunedin High students resumed classes in August, shows the Patricia closure caused traffic on several nearby roads to spike to volumes that are near capacity or over capacity. Furthermore, her report says, figures show that speed humps had already effectively calmed traffic in the neighborhood.
She recommends that officials adopt the two-phase approach she endorsed earlier this year: Test speed humps first, and seek an alternative only if those fail to calm traffic.
"Dunedin's experience has been that speed humps reduce both vehicular speeds and traffic volumes," Rice wrote. "This appears to be a reasonable compromise solution to addressing residents' concerns for speeding and cut-through traffic in this neighborhood."
The City Commission is encouraging the public to attend its meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, when it will discuss the findings. Among the highlights:
•As expected, closing Patricia — which has a capacity of 1,000 cars a day — reduced the roadway's traffic volumes.
In fall 2008, officials recorded a daily volume of 948 cars north of McLean Street, compared with 104 cars in August. South of the barricade, trips decreased from more than 1,300 a day three years ago to 262 north of San Salvador and 990 trips a day south of San Salvador.
•The closure's impact on individual residential streets north of the barricade varied, reducing traffic by as many as 283 vehicles per day on some roads and increasing volume by as many as 85 cars per day on others.
Averaged together, Rice said, the numbers reflect an overall daily reduction of 550 vehicles in the neighborhood, or 79 vehicles per day per street.
However, historical data shows speed humps had already successfully reduced volume on each of those seven streets to below 50 percent of their capacity of 1,000 cars a day. The March closure of Patricia "simply reduced the volume even more," Rice wrote.
•Volume on one section of San Salvador, between Patricia and Pinehurst Road, has increased by 520 cars a day to 1,235. That exceeds the two-lane residential roadway's capacity of 1,000 trips a day.
"Where 550 trips were removed from a combined seven streets north of the closure, the closure has now essentially placed 520 of those trips onto a single street," Rice wrote, adding that traffic is especially jammed at the Pinehurst intersection during rush hour. "Opening Patricia will restore this section of San Salvador to near pre-existing conditions and provide much needed relief to its residents."
•The barricades also appear to have shifted traffic that previously cut through Patricia back to Pinehurst, which motorists used before Patricia was opened to traffic in 1994. Officials recorded 7,346 cars in 2010 and 8,859 in 2011 — an increase of 1,513 trips per day.
Rice recommends that the city relocate one speed hump each from McLean and Robmar and Jackmar roads to Patricia. If approved, she said city staffers would continue to monitor speed and traffic volume, and recommend an alternative if needed.
The report acknowledges that reopening the roadway would cause cut-through traffic to resume "to some extent."
"The intent, however, is to dampen the return of that cut-through traffic with the deployment of the speed humps," said Rice.
Keyonna Summers can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4153.