Sebastian residents express concern over construction of Powerline Road

SEBASTIAN — Speeding, children’s safety and wildlife were among the chief concerns amongst Sebastian residents who attended a public workshop to discuss the potential construction of Powerline Road.

The $1 million project, which could get underway by Spring 2011, would connect Main Street to County Road 512, running parallel to Columbus Street.

The roadway currently consists of two rows of powerlines and a dirt path currently used by city vehicles.

Connecting Main Street to County Road 512 is expected to help alleviate traffic in the Highlands community by re-routing through-traffic off Easy, Main and Fleming streets.

“We’re trying to get more connectors,” City Manager Al Minner said of the current road system in the area. Powerline Road would also help draw some traffic off US 1, he said.

“There’s not a whole lot of traffic there,” Columbus Street resident Steve Rockwood said during the discussion. “Personally, I think there are more pertinent issues.” Rockwood noted drainage as being one such issue the city should address.

Other residents also expressed concerns regarding the impact the roadway could have on the area.

“Is this going to be a raceway?” asked Lillian Mandello, another Columbus Street resident. She raised the issue of the number of school children in the area and how their safety would be ensured.

Minner said that the road is expected to pull much of the traffic off the residential streets and decrease some of the risks. Also, there would be crosswalks with lights and posted speed limits like those on Easy Street.

Ashbury neighborhood resident Susan Merschat asked how the road would affect the wildlife in the area, noting that there are bobcats, tortoises and other such animals that call that area home.

“I’m concerned about road kill,” Merschat said.

Steve Moler, vice president of Masteller and Moler – the firm hired to craft the construction plans, told Merschat that a 25-foot natural buffer between the community and the road would be preserved. However, there are tortoises in the area that would have to be relocated during construction.

Minner told the audience that the Sebastian City Council has yet to approve the construction project. Instead, the council directed staff to hire a firm to work up the construction plans. From there, the council would then decide whether to proceed with selecting a construction firm to perform the work.

If the project were approved and the process moved forward, Minner said construction could begin in May or June 2011 and take about six months to complete.

As part of the extension project, the city plans to install a sidewalk along the east side of Powerline and possibly a bike lane on the west side of the road, depending on the budget.

“The corridor is extremely tight,” Moler told the audience, responding to Rockwood’s request to have a vegetative buffer on the Columbus Street side of Powerline.

Minner said the request was “duly noted” and could be something the council might consider.

Part of the push to move the Powerline Road extension project forward comes from the Ashbury community, according to Minner. The developer placed funds into escrow for the city to use to construct Powerline between Main and County Road 512.

Those funds, approximately $100,000, could be returned to the developer within the next few years if not used for the project, Minner said at the workshop.

Also, the city has planned for future multi-family residential development in the area, which would require a connector road, such as Powerline, he added.

“It makes sense,” Minner said.

The city might plan to hold a second public workshop regarding the Powerline Road project before finalizing the construction plans to present to the Sebastian City Council.

Anyone with questions or comments about the project is encouraged to contact the city by calling (772) 589-5330.

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