Eliminating traffic calming program leaves neighborhoods defenseless

It may not be happy holidays for nearby neighbors and those who use SW 152nd Street as it appears that the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has finalized its selection of the former Village Hall site to relocate the Kendall regional customer service and distribution center.

And don’t breathe a sigh of relief if you live near 144th, not 152nd, as the question is how many people will now cut through your neighborhood to get to 144th to try to cross US1 should 152nd become more difficult. Many are now just hearing about it, but this issue has been percolating at Village Hall since the notification letter first came in to Planning on June 10. Yet there was no mention by any elected officials at any of the Committee of the Whole, special or regular council meetings that were held in June, July and September.

It was not until the public spoke up at public comment on Oct. 7 for this issue to reach more of us. Time continues to move without any definitive action being taken to protect the surrounding neighborhood through traffic calming. Leadership is overdue. This issue is not going away. In fact, it is getting worse.

Grant Miller, publisher of Miami’s Community Newspapers, made his feelings known earlier this month in “USPS facility relocation in village a bad move.” Now what?

Delivery trucks, especially 18 wheelers don’t like traffic humps, chicanes and small neighborhood circles. The USPS situation now demonstrates why it is unfortunate that village traffic calming program (but not traffic increases) has come to a screeching halt since 2010. The last competed projecting was the traffic circle at SW 168th Street and 87th Avenue.

The vision of the original Palmetto Bay council was to make our village one of the most livable communities in the country. Traffic is a major factor that affects the livability. As speeding and vehicular volume increases, walking to the neighborhood store or even across the street to a neighbor’s house can be an uncomfortable event. I strongly recommend that a Neighborhood Traffic Calming Program be reinstated to provide neighborhood protection.

Palmetto Bay successfully worked with the county from 2002 to 2010 in traffic calming many roads. Palmetto Bay should be working now, not later, with the neighbors to properly calm the residential roads surrounding the Post Office site, saving the neighbors from new commercial and delivery traffic (which is projected to include 18 wheelers).

The USPS might not have even chosen this site had Palmetto Bay been working on a traffic calming plan to protect the neighbors. And let’s be clear, doing nothing is the worst bad option available. We now see how bad things can happen when local government stops investing in neighborhood protection by eliminating a traffic calming program.

Controlling safety hazards, vehicular speeds, vehicular volumes, existence of sidewalks and bike lanes all contribute to the neighborhood’s integrity. It gives confidence to homeowners. That is why we invested so heavily in traffic infrastructure during the first eight years of Palmetto Bay. Numerous chicanes, speed humps and traffic circles were installed throughout the village. They work.

And yes, there was angst during the periods of construction, but as I called it back then, short term construction was ugly and inconvenient, but this was for a long benefit goal. Traffic now moves smoothly along 168th/87th and 82nd/160th. Less traffic is diverted into the neighboring streets to escape the backups. Traffic slows at the chicanes along SW 174th Street and speed humps in many areas of Palmetto Bay. The program should continue, not stopped. The work is far from complete.

Don’t give up. I say it is time to engage traffic planners to work with the neighbors surrounding the old Village Hall site to come up with a realistic defensive traffic calming plan; perhaps even hiring two or more planning companies to engage in a design competition. We need additional plans to improve the 152nd Street and US1 intersection — a bad situation created long before Palmetto Bay incorporated. Investing in a solid workable plan will lead to the county and the state buying into a partnership to resolve the problem. Improving 152nd Street would increase our commercial tax base as providing better access to the businesses on both the north and south sides of 152nd at US1 would increase in value.

But everyone needs to realize that the path to solution starts at the local level and that is why I am calling for resumption in local investment in strategic longterm improvements to our traffic issues. Continued lack of action only leads to an increase in the traffic problems as well as unpredictable and unwanted results in the future. The last option for ACRE may be to exercise its bargained for property rights in court. It shouldn’t have to be this way.

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