Sebastian residents help plan future road needs

SEBASTIAN – The North County Library was turned into a county transportation office for a few hours Wednesday as road planners and consultants met with residents from Sebastian and Fellsmere to discuss the area’s road needs in 2035.

“You don’t know you’re driving in the city or county,” said Phil Matson. “You just want a smooth ride.”

Matson is the staff director of the county’s Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is tasked with developing a plan for the county’s transportation needs.

About 20 people attended the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Long Range Transportation Program workshop at the library – adding to the approximate 60 who turned out to the three meetings prior. Another, fifth meeting, was held late Wednesday afternoon in Vero Beach.

The MPO had originally crafted a plan that called for the widening of numerous roads throughout the county to accommodate the growth anticipated for the future. However, after receiving feedback from the communities, planners have instead decided that connecting more roads into the transportation might be the better way to go.

“I think everyone breathes a sigh of relief,” Sebastian Mayor Richard Gillmor said of his residents because US 1 is not expected to be widened to six lanes as originally planned.

He said it’s difficult enough for pedestrians to cross four lanes of traffic as it is.

“Crossing six lanes on US 1? Forget about it,” Mayor Gillmor said.

He pointed to Sebastian’s already robust roadway grid system as one of the reasons he and his wife moved to the city.

“I can’t get lost,” Mayor Gillmor said.

Sebastian resident Susan Volk expressed concern over both widening road and making more connections, saying that filling out the grid could cause more traffic.

However, “I don’t want big super highways,” she added.

To help the MPO make better decisions on where grids and widening might be needed 25 years in the future, workshop participants were given colored stickers to place on large area maps. Those stickers were to represent where they would like to see more bus service, pedestrian and bicyclist improvements, and roadway improvements – including widening, resurfacing and other such work.

Mayor Gillmor said he “voted” for more transit stops in the city for the GoLine bus system, in particularly through the Sebastian Highlands community.

He would also like to see some sort of weather protection for bus riders and more route information posted at the stops.

“That’s what I’d like to see,” he said.

MPO Staff Director Matson said that those who have attended the transportation workshops have generally supported extending the grid system and have offered their own suggestions for connecting north-south roads through east-west extensions.

The next step for the MPO is to go back to the traffic models and plug in the feedback from the public determine the cost and impact of each suggestion.

The agency has until the end of the year to come up with its plan and adopt it.

Didn’t make it to a workshop? The MPO has put most of its information – studies, maps, information – on a Web site dedicated to the Long Range Transportation Program, which can be visited at www.GreenIRC2035.org.

There, visitors can also take a survey and register for a $100 gift card good at any Indian River County Chamber of Commerce member’s business.

For more information, call the Metropolitan Planning Organization at (772) 226-1455.

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