CLEARWATER - It had been only three days since the Clearwater City Council directed staff to reconfigure the parking and traffic lanes of Cleveland Street to accommodate planned construction at the intersection of Drew and Myrtle.
As reported by the Gazette last week, the Council had unanimously agreed to eliminate left turn lanes and movements and parking on the north side in favor of creating four traffic lanes, two eastbound and two westbound. Cleveland Street's new configuration was to have remained in effect until the new Memorial Causeway Bridge opens in September.
But members of Clearwater's Downtown Development Board (DDB) were not keen on the idea. At their meeting on April 6, they were unanimous in their opposition to the 5-month duration of the loss of north side parking and left turns. Linda Franklin said that the removal of parking would be damaging to businesses on the north side, while Fran Briskman said that by eliminating left turns "you're basically suffocating all these streets." Council members Petersen and Doran were in attendance and heard the concerns first hand.
Bob Fernandez, Chairman of the DDB, presented their unanimously approved resolution during the April 7 Council meeting: "We recommend to the City Council that whatever reconfiguration Cleveland Street takes during the Drew Street/Myrtle Avenue closure (approximately 6 to 8 weeks), that the left hand turn lanes and the parking on the north side be restored after the work is complete."
The Council also learned of a possible 3-week closure of Cleveland Street at Myrtle on July 5, part of the same Myrtle Avenue construction project that is closing Drew Street. Public Services Director Gary Johnson said, "there's a good chance that once we make the change in lane usage on Cleveland from mid-April to the beginning of July, then we take Cleveland back out of service again and nothing matters in terms of what we do with the lanes."
Council Member Bill Jonson expressed concern with removing parking on the north side of Cleveland Street, citing its negative impact on the new businesses opening and on pedestrians who are today insulated from auto traffic by the parking lane. He moved to direct staff to remove parking from the north side of Cleveland Street only for the duration of the Drew Street closure (approximately 6 weeks), retain the left turn lanes, and restore parking on the south side of Cleveland. His motion failed by a vote of 3-2, Petersen and Jonson in favor, and Doran, Hibbard and Hamilton opposed.
But Council Member Hamilton had an immediate change of heart. After clarifying his understanding of Jonson's proposal, the motion was reconsidered and passed 4-1, with only Mayor Frank Hibbard opposed.
According Traffic Operations manager Paul Bertels, removal of parking from the north side of Cleveland will occur on April 18, creating two westbound lanes for the duration of the Drew Street closure. At the same time, parking will be restored on the south side, restricting Cleveland Street to one eastbound lane.
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