One-Way Streets For Whom
By Anne McKay Garris
At Monday's work session, the Clearwater City Council Members, advised by City Traffic Engineer, Paul Bertels, tried their hand at being traffic engineers.
Bertels led off with the information that one-way pairs of streets on South Clearwater Beach had been recommended, off and on, for 36 years, by Clearwater's traffic experts, suggesting that the reason the system had not been implemented long ago was the opposition of public opinion. He gave, as his professional view, that the one-way pairs system of getting traffic up and down South Clearwater Beach is "the best way to handle traffic, now and in the future." This recommendation is based on traffic counts in the area during August of 2009.
Residents of the South Beach strongly disagree and have been lobbying City Council Members since the subject was broached at a recent public hearing. In a petition from a residents' group, the Council was asked to consider that Beach By Design, often quoted when the Council is voting in favor of something controversial, clearly describes Hamden Drive (on the East of the island) as a residential street, not a throughway for passing traffic. The petitioners point out that any one-way pair should be Coronado and South Gulfview which is the "tourist" side of the island - that making Hamden one-way would be detrimental to both the residential use and the small motel use along Hamden.
What brings the unpopular subject up at this time is the near advent of one, if not two, large parking garages, side by side, on Coronado Avenue, and how to handle all those cars wanting to exit the garages into traffic. The Traffic Department is recommending that Coronado Avenue traffic be one-way, going south, and Hamden Drive be one-way, going north, leaving South Gulfview (sometimes called Beach Drive) two way because it is supposed to be a scenic corridor.
Residents who live, and own businesses, on Hamden and the fingers on the east of the island, point out that even the well thumbed Beach By Design plan which has mandated much of the multiplying of large buildings on the South Beach, recommends that Hamden remain a residential street as it provides the only egress for the three residential fingers on the east of the island.
"We are going to get gnashing of teeth over this," acknowledged Mayor Frank Hibbard, adding that one-way streets move traffic faster, making it more dangerous for pedestrians. He also noted that Council Members needed to listen to the majority of its citizens. "But," he continued, "citizens need to understand they live on the Beach and there are inconveniences that go with that."
He suggested that no action be taken on the one-way pairs until after Spring Break and, with the large Hyatt hotel/parking garage open, "We'll have one Spring Break time to prove the present system won't work."
Councilmember Paul Gibson asked Bertels how many accidents have been recorded in the vicinity of the Hyatt Hotel with the large number of workers coming and going at the site. The answer was, "None!"
All of the Council Members agreed that, whatever decision was made, the improvement of Hamden Drive needed to take place, either before the one-way pairs were implemented, or while they were being changed. Then the question arose of whether the current back out parking used by about 13 motels along Hamden Drive should be accommodated, or sidewalks built. According to Bertel, there is not sufficient room for both.
Councilmember John Doran also acknowledged that the one-way pair plan would be "somewhat of an inconvenience" for the residents of South Beach but added, "We need to look pro-actively at the best way to handle traffic. People will say we didn't listen to them but we can't please everybody."
Councilmember George Cretekos saw no problem with South Gulfview being one of the one-way pair, leaving Hamden as two-way. "One-way streets will be safest for all our residents, although they don't see it now," he added.
Acknowledging that the new Hyatt would bring a lot more traffic to the area, the Council turned to discussing ways to insure that motorists, exiting the garage onto Coronado, would not turn left, regardless of the traffic flow.
Although the Council will not vote on the issue until tonight's council meeting at City Hall, the main concern seemed to be that Hamden would be improved before anything else happened - that one-way streets were inevitable - and that there should be improved pedestrian crosswalks - and that the citizens who were interested in quality of life simply didn't understand that traffic has top priority in the view of Clearwater's staff and council.
Return to Current Edition