Effective Friday, the Florida Department of Transportation is temporarily reducing the speed limit to 35 mph on State Road A1A through Indian River Shores to increase safety during the $6.7 million widening and resurfacing of the coastal highway.
FDOT spokeswoman Kathleen Dempsey said the change – the speed limit has been 45 mph – was made at the urging of Rich Rosell, the town’s police chief and public safety director.
Informed that FDOT granted his request, Rosell said he was “ecstatic” and believed the reduced speed limit will help avoid potentially fatal accidents.
“We had grave concerns about the safety of the workers,” Rosell said. “That’s a narrow road to begin with, so the workers are operating close to passing traffic. There’s a significant difference in braking distance when you go from 45 mph to 35 mph. This was the right decision.”
Rosell said the slower speeds won’t negatively impact traffic flow through the often-congested construction zone, where motorists can encounter mile-long backups spawned by lane closures, sudden stops to allow left turns and frustrated drivers veering onto grassy berms to avoid further delays.
The traffic congestion will only get worse when seasonal residents start to return in the fall.
“Our traffic cameras were showing that we were seeing January- and February-type numbers as recently as June,” Rosell said, referring to the large number of seasonal residents who, because of the coronavirus pandemic, chose to stay in Florida longer rather than head north to their summer homes. “It wasn’t until a month ago that the island finally emptied out.
“We’ll see some of them start tickling back here in October, but they’ll come back en masse in November,” he added. “As I’ve said before: We all knew this project was coming. And if you examine the road, this work really needed to be done.”
The 15-month project, which began June 22 and is expected to be completed in the fall of 2021, includes installing 7-foot-wide, buffered bicycle lanes along a 6.74-mile stretch of A1A from Tides Road, just north of the Vero Beach city limit, to Coco Plum Lane near Wabasso Beach.
FDOT also plans to improve roadway signage, traffic signals and drainage, as well as make repairs to sidewalks where needed. Lane closures are scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday.