There’s been a few conflicting messages and a few inaccuracies out of Palm Coast government lately regarding the Whiteview narrowing project–the city’s plan to take Whiteview’s westernmost segment’s four lanes down to two, create walking paths and add turning lanes to reduce risks on a road that’s claimed three lives since 2012.
But the plan has not been scrubbed. It’s on pause, but still part of the city’s mid-range plan. It’s on pause now not because council members are grumbling, though the pause is convenient in that regard, but because the city has no choice. The project’s $4 million cost depends on state Department of Transportation funding, which may not happen for several years yet–“a minimum likely of three years,” in City Manager Matt Morton’s words, and very likely longer than that: if the city is getting state dollars, it’s hoping they’re directed at the four-laning of Old Kings Road, a higher priority than Whiteview’s humbling.
In essence, the project is planned for, but out of the city’s hands for now. And absent a third vote to scrub it altogether and that hasn’t materialized, city council members’ objections have little or nothing to do with the project’s direction.
The inaccuracies are the work of two council members, both of whom are more or less opposed to narrowing Whiteview: Jack Howell (more) and Eddie Branquinho (less). Howell claims that if anything, there may be a four-laning of Whiteview all the way to Old Kings Road. But no such plan is on any drawing board or near a drawing board.
“It was not the highway that was the issue, not whatsoever, and you can’t fix stupid, which are the drivers that rear-end each other on that road,” Howell said, an insensitive and inaccurate reference to the three fatalities, only one of which was caused by a rear-ending (and the victim was not at fault). He was speaking to some 50 people gathered at a recent Palm Coast Democratic Club meeting focused on the separation of church and state.
“That’s the bottom line,” Howell went on, “so at least for the time being that’s going to be held off, and if anything it’ll probably turn out to be a four-lane all the way out to Old Kings Road before this is over. They’re laying water lines right now out to Old Kings Road. If you go down Old Kings Road you’ll see they’re working right there on 95.” The two projects are not connected. Howell again asserted that the project was on hold in a brief interview Wednesday, and that he was working toward scrubbing it altogether.
Branquinho says the city “would have to come up with $400,000” for the project if the Department of Transportation were to pick up the rest of the tab. In fact, the city has already spent $583,685, just for the design, which is “95 percent complete,” according to a city spokesman. The cost doesn’t include in-house labor for landscape design. If the design gathers dust for a few years, the city will have to come up with more design money should the transportation department provide a grant, just to ensure that the design is up to date. (In the 2018 fiscal year, Palm Coast had appropriated $1.7 million out of transportation impact fees to the Whiteview project.)
“As that project is right now I would vote no on that project,” Branquinho said at a council meeting last week. “Even though that’s a $4 million project, basically the city would have come up only with $400,000. Ten percent of that, that’s the part of the city would pay. At the end if that’s going to save one life, it’s worth the $400,000 but then again, the way it is at this point I would vote no.” He did not explain why.
The project is counter-intuitive: why would the city reduce four lanes to two anywhere, when ITT designed its major arteries, including two-lane arteries, for growth and four-laning. But city officials insist that Whiteview will not be generating the sort of traffic that would warrant four-laning–not in the near future, not in the long term, either.
The reason: unlike Royal Palm Parkway, which could eventually be four-laned between U.S. 1 and Belle Terre, “None of the DRI’s connect to Whiteview,” Michael Schottey, the city’s spokesman, said today, referring to approved mega-developments called Developments of Regional Impact. That’s strictly true: two massive DRIs the city approved last decade, neither of which has produced a single house yet–Neoga Lakes, with a planned 7,000 homes, and Old Brick Township, 5,000 homes–are west of U.S. 1 rather than abutting it. But Neoga Lakes sprawls parallel to U.S. 1, north and south of Whiteview, and traffic patterns from it to U.S. 1 are obviously not set yet. That future is uncertain.
Carl Cote, the construction manager who’s been the city’s point man on the project, says the plan has evolved over time. For instance, when it was presented to residents around Whiteview at a public meeting in January 2018, one of its options was to transform two lanes in one direction into a green, linear park-like area, while splitting the two lanes in the other direction between east and west. But residents wanted to keep the median now in place. So that’s remained in the new design, with single lanes on either side.
The plan calls for dedicated left-turn lanes, the absence of which caused the January 2015 crash that took the life of 22-year-old Elisa Marie Homen, a young mother, who was waiting to make a left turn onto Ravenwood Drive. Then 19-year-old Brian Szmitko rear-ended her, pushing her in the path of a school bus. The impact with the school bus killed her. She had done nothing wrong.
In 2014, Robert Cronin, 62, was speeding in early morning, going 80 in a 45, when he lost control in the four-lane zone and struck a tree. The impact killed him. The cause could not be attributed to the road. And in 2012, Pedro Riera, 48, lost his life when a 21-year-old driver pulled out from a stop sign at Rolling Sands Drive to make a left onto Whiteview, right after another car made a right onto Rolling Sands, from the right lane on White View. The 21 year old never saw Riera in the left lane. Riera struck the car and died.
“Creating left turn lanes was one of the big things,” Cote said, “and up by Rolling Sands, three roads are closely spaced, we’re restricting some of that movement and creating a dedicated left out to head west out of rolling sands.” That would be in direct response to the 2012 crash.
But all of it depends on state transportation department money, though as the city navigates council members’ reactions, it can also be prone to somewhat conflicting messages.
“With a lot of the comments we’ve heard, absolutely you need to just pause to go back, look at the design and have some conversations around that and review,” Morton, the city manager, said in response to Branquinho’s and Howell’s stances last week, “use that opportunity now just to make sure we understand the project, that its initial intentions are still validated and warranted as far as what we thought we were getting.”
The statement suggested more than a pause, raising questions about whether the project was warranted. (The council member’s chief objections are financial.) But Schottey, the spokesperson, encapsulated in almost Clintonian language the conflicting signals when he described where the project stands at the moment: “It’s not officially on hold or officially moving forward,” he said, “it’s still just in the future, it’s on the list of projects we want to do.”
Just not yet: as Cote acknowledged, if the transportation department were to provide the $4 million for the project in the near term, with Old Kings Road’s widening still not completed, “that’s something we definitely would have conversations about,” Cote said. It’s happened in the past, he noted, with the transportation department ranking one project higher than another, in reverse of city priorities, and the city has asked that the money be re-allocated accordingly.
So it’s in the state’s hands more than Palm Coast’s at this point. Meanwhile, Schottey said, “one council member and one or two residents writing in are not going to drive the whole project.”
How stupid to reduce to 2 lane and have to put back to 4 lane in a short time
Morgan Monaco says
Any human with common sense & intelligence would keep & extended the 4 lanes.
Wow here we go again, Palm Coast can’t make up their minds. First it was needed to prevent the deadly accidents that have happened on the road. Now were blaming the delay in funds from the state. Once again oir elected officials have wasted money’s on projects that truly not needed. Now why not leave it alone, add the turn lanes as needed or as indicated and move forward. It’s time we the citizens stand up and question the continued waste of tax dollars. I’m happy to see at least two commissioners are leaning toward scrapping the project.
Grace Zultowski says
Makes no sense to reduce this road to two lanes. It would be better to increase it to four lanes across the full length. This is a more direct route from Belle Terre to Hwy 1.
Denali 94 says
Once again Mr. Howell shows us his lack of empathy and ability to tell the complete truth. The empathy to which I refer is how he makes flippant statements about how three people have died on Whiteview. As for my truth comment, this project is not on ‘hold’ due to any action by Mr. Howell or the city – the holding pattern is simply a delay from the state (FDOT) in providing funding. Mr. Morton stated that it may take three years for FDOT to release the necessary funds, but, the project is in the system for final funding.
As for extending Whiteview to Old Kings, where did that come from? Was there a traffic study that I missed? Has anyone, until now, even proposed this extension? Has anyone approached the state or the fed about crossing I-95? Is there even room for an overpass or would the east side approach ramp have to extend into the Graham Swamp Conservation Area? Does Mr. Howell even have a remote idea of the costs involved in a project of this magnitude? Oh I am sure he will say that he was ‘just kidding’. When will those who hold a position of public trust learn that words matter? ‘Just kidding’ starts rumors and creates doubt in the sincerity of the speaker. You were elected to represent the people, not do stand-up comedy.
Just look at the map extending white view to old kings wouldn’t be a bad idea, the room is there and it would eleaviate traffic from royal palms/town center and give people another route to get to old kings. As for the preserve that wouldn’t even be a factor as it would be just a T intersection just like town center and old kings… preserve to the east of old kings
Both of these need four lanes, minimally two with the turn lanes. In the hours related to work and school traffic, whether it’s coming or going, it is extremely difficult to get out if you drive that Ravenwood section. You can barely make a left hand turn. You can barely get onto Royal Palms during that time period as well. Jf there’s an accident and traffic is re-routed from Belle Terre or from 95 on to Belle Terre and US1 it is even worse.
Name (required says
Every crosspath at every intersection and thoroughfare exit, residential or otherwise, should ABSOLUTELY have a dedicated turn lane (right OR left.) One simple dedicated left turn lane at Ravenwood would would’ve saved a young woman’s life, from being ended by of our MANY negligent drivers here in PC. Just sayin. Never seen anything like it, Jax and st aug. .. people die in this town in 40mph speed zones somehow. Just bizarre. Time to brush up on traffic flow planning. (Keyword: FLOW)
Pete Celestino says
I drive this road every day. I don’t understand why we would reduce the west end of Whiteview Parkway from four lanes to two lanes. In my opinion the only issue is at the intersection at Ravenwood. I believe a turn lane heading westbound at this intersection would solve that issue.
Gee, what a great plan. A walking path on Whiteview to Route 1 where you can get whacked by 60 mile per hour traffic. Just what you would expect from the “good ole’ boy” employee base.
Pretty stupid idea for anyone to think that going from a 4 lane divided highway to a 2 lane highway would be safer. Adding turn lanes make REAL common sense. Oh BTW you will never ever fix STUPID drivers other than to revoke their drivers license forever.
I agree That Raven Wood intersection at both Rimfire and Whiteview is a disaster in the making. Raven wood needs to expand at both those main arteries to allow right turning traffic their own dedicated lane. It is illegal currently to sneak past a car waiting to make a left heading west on Whiteview, or to pass a car waiting to make a left heading east on Rimfire. There also needs to be a dedicated green arrow to make a left off white view North on BellTerre, oncoming westward white view traffic is so steady at rush hour it is sketchy as hell darting on a plain green light through oncoming traffic that has the right of way. I have lived all over this country and never seen such poor traffic management in any city 10 times the size of PC or smaller, It is so bizarre. I notice it looks like they are building a road from Old Kings to I-95, will Whiteview continue on to Old Kings? I find the Underpass at Town Center to be a super convenient way and pleasant drive to cross town avoiding 17 lights over PCPKWY to get my kid to Rimfire Elementary from F section each morning, if only they could fix the lights at Old Kings and PCPKWY, crossing at that intersection is half the time of my commute as the green light lasts only 7 seconds in the single left lane that allows you to go straight, ridiculous. Last “pointer” to whoever controls these things, elementary schools need a dedicated right hand turn lane to enter the school drop off zone. The entire road backs up ridiculously at rush hour as the drop off loop backs up into the road and now nobody can drive straight through pass the school until all the kids are dropped off, The 20′ grass shoulder in front of Rimfire is worn bare from cars making their own turning lane off road so as not to block traffic. This should be a hint, just pave and paint this frontage, maybe we wouldn’t need a full time cop there every morning to keep order amongst stressed out parents and other commuters.
The studies and reason given to fund this project are flawed as Councilman Howell said it and is true. Is ridiculous their excuse of 3 deaths since 2012 when those deaths were drivers violations not the roads fault. We have a very narrow street with houses seating 40 and 60 feet from speeding traffic some of them semi’s trucks on a total length of 1.9 miles with NO TURN LANES and 5.800 vehicles transit a day of which good percentage are large loaded trucks. That street is called Florida Park Drive the number one residential road in Palm Coast with the highest amount of traffic. The biggest waste of my taxpayers $$ are already those $585,000 wasted in White View when we really need Old Kings Road widen instead. Wonder what is the real reason besides the alleged ones for this project i feel some developers wish here and hope I am wrong. Take care of Florida Park Drive and Old Kings Road and have meanwhile our Sheriff traffic officers ticketing drivers when committing violations as often as needed and use the fines revenue to fund more traffic units so much needed to stop these speeders in our roads and waters in Palm Coast!
I applaud councilmen Howell and Branquinho that oppose this waste of our funds in WVP! Leave it for after FPD and OKR improvements are done.
Hammock Bear says
Will sound barrier walls be part of this project ? Increasing to more lanes will also increase noise. That will create lesser values of homes next to the road. It will also disturb those home owners peace.
Land of no turn signals says says
What a waste of money leave it alone.If anything slow it down a bit everybody does 5-10 mph over -lower it that much,maybe the idiots will put down there cell phones.[God forbid].
Land of no turn signals says says
I live near the intersection of Whiteview and Ravenwood and I am there many times a day without issues.The only two flaws I see are people not using turn signals to turn left onto Ravenwood from Whiteview and people doing a rolling stop to make a right onto Whiteview from Ravenwood in front of on coming traffic.No traffic device is going to fix stupid drivers.Save the money put up blinking light,rumble stips what ever makes you feel better but spending millions of dollars is just crazy.
Get it done says
Seems stupid to stop the project after the 500k design (pretty steep for the project), and the total project of 4 million and we only have to invest 400k makes sense.
But one thing that needs to be addressed is walk/bicycle lanes on both sides during the whole way.
Patricia Thomasey says
No need to change Whiteview. With the boom in building and the expecation of more people using the road, why would you waste 4 million dollars decreasing it to 2 lanes . If you think the turn around lanes are dangerous, close 2. The only dangerous intersection (in my opinion) is Ravenwood and Whiteview which is poorly lighted and often has accidents.