The 30 miles per hour speed limit on your residential street may be heading down to 25.
Palm Coast will spend close to $100,000 on a pair of traffic studies–one to investigate whether speed limits may be lowered on many residential streets from the current 30 miles power hour, the other to investigate speeds and how traffic-calming medians could help improve traffic flow on Florida Park Drive, the most studied roadway this side of the Appian Way.
With one exception, Palm Coast City Council members raised some questions and had some qualms about the studies, especially about Florida Park Drive, but were otherwise supportive. “I don’t think we really have a choice,” Council member Ed Danko said.
Residential streets by law have speed limits of 30 miles per hour. Cities may lower those speeds. But to do so, they must conduct investigations that justify the lower limits. The speed-limit study will be based on 50 test locations, and possibly 75. The analysis will then be applied to the entire city, determining whether stricter area-wide speed limits are in order. (Council member Theresa Pontieri, the most supportive of the studies among the council members, asked that Cimmaron Drive, the road that in recent years surpassed Florida Park Drive as Palm Coast’s most-obsessed over, be included as one of the test locations.)
The studies will be conducted by Kimley-Horn, a national engineering company that has contracted with Palm Coast, Bunnell, Flagler Beach and the county previously on a range of projects, from utility to road projects.
The speed-limit study is straightforward. As the National Association of City Transportation Officials puts it, “collect data, analyze existing conditions, determine how to manage speeds down, and evaluate changes.”
“On other projects they’ve worked on in other cities, has anyone ever done a follow up as to whether these changes actually made a difference or not?” Council member Ed Danko asked. Cote did not have an answer. “Before we spend 100 grands, if these guys have a track record of coming in and making changes and nothing’s changed, I kind of would like to know that.”
The Florida Park Drive study will be fuzzier, not least because the road has been so often the subject of studies that it’s become difficult–as it was for Mayor David Alfin–to differentiate one from the other. The throughway has been the subject of a noise study, an air study, a traffic study, of truck traffic limitations, and the subject of a proposal to build traffic calming medians. But those would have cost $400,000. The high cost shelved the proposal. The current Kimley-Horn proposal is to study the effect of those potential medians on traffic. Kimley-Horn will analyze speeds on Florida Park Drive, too, potentially to limit them, and whether all-way stop signs are warranted at two intersections.
Unsurprisingly, the Florida Park Drive proposal drew questions: with so many Florida Park Drive studies in the past, why this one now? This one would be different, Carl Cote, who heads the city’s stormwater and engineering division, said, since there’s never been an evaluation of medians, or whether they could cause traffic crashes.
Alfin was not convinced. “I feel like we’re starting over and we have a reference library that we could draw from,” he said. “But I’m not the engineer. I’m just struggling with it.” Pontieri supports the study, saying it is “hyper-focused” on Florida Park Drive. Still, Alfin said he was “uncomfortable” with yet one more study.
Council member Nick Klufas is not in favor of additional stop signs. Florida Park Drive residents have repeatedly complained about pollution on the road. He said the majority of pollutants from cars are produced when cars accelerate from zero to 35 miles per hour. That would be worsened by stop signs.
The discussion drew one of the most colorful public comments about Florida Park Drive in the road’s epic catalogue of public comments when Mary Kay Hayward, a resident, described it as “a one-off unicorn,” as she said she’d heard someone else call it. “We are not residential. We are not a major urban collector. It’s like Chinatown– sister mother, sister mother. pick one!” she urged the council. (But the point that the brutal Jake Gittes just wouldn’t understand is that Evelyn was and could only be both.)
Steve Carr, who has been the unofficial spokesperson of Florida Park Drive over the years, didn’t see the point of further studies. “Why reinvent the wheel?” he asked. “All these cities around us are using traffic-calming methods. Why haven’t we contacted these cities to see how they are doing their studies to gather their information for where they use traffic-calming? I mean, why are we reinventing the wheel? Find out.” Ceila Pugliese, a former Florida Park Drive resident, described it as “a study of the study of the study.”
Alfin also cautioned that making traffic studies another priority means that the money will be withdrawn from another priority. He was not opposed to the studies, if that’s what residents were clamoring for, but he wanted the council to be aware of what money would be subtracted from another priority. But that exploration didn’t go far. When he hunted for a consensus from his colleagues, he found them in favor.
“I know it’s frustrating that we have to do another study with regards to the speed limits, but it has to be done,” Pontieri said. “I would be crushed if somebody were to get into a fatal accident on Cimarron or Florida Park Drive or something to that effect, because one resident is one resident too many if that happens. This is a step that we have to take. Unfortunately, the most frustrating part for me in this job is that there’s 18 steps when there feels like there should be two in government. This is unfortunately one of those so we are taking a necessary step to make sure we’re being prudent.” She described the appropriation as a “drop in the bucket” that will guide wiser spending in the future, if the city does install speed limit and stop signs.
The proposal has not been formally approved. It was discussed in workshop today, and will likely return before the council in early February for a vote.speed-limit-study