Really, we’re talking about this again?
Can you believe there are members of the current Vero Beach City Council who want to reconfigure the traffic pattern along the stretch of State Road 60 that runs through the old downtown so we can eliminate driving lanes and use them for parallel parking?
We need to take a harder look at the people we elect, because anyone who wants to take away traffic lanes along the Twin Pairs as the community continues to grow is not working in our best interests.
Narrowing that section of road might make pedestrians feel safer and generate more business for a handful of downtown merchants. It might provide a few dozen additional parking spaces that most of the time aren’t needed.
But for the most part, it’s a solution in search of a problem.
There’s no evidence of pedestrians being hurt by drivers speeding along the Twin Pairs, the wide and divided thoroughfare that runs one way in each direction – four lanes going west, three going east – from U.S. 1 to 20th Avenue.
Nor is there any reason to believe more people would flock downtown if the roadway were reduced to two lanes in each direction and additional parallel parking was made available.
City officials say eliminating lanes could add as many as 80 new spaces, which would be a factor to seriously consider if there were a downtown parking shortage.
But there isn’t.
There isn’t any compelling reason to drastically alter the Twin Pairs’ traffic flow – and that includes the ridiculous claim that reducing lanes would help “Keep Vero, Vero.”
Allow me to break some news to my nostalgic neighbors who yearn for a return to yesteryear, and continue to delude themselves into believing they still can fend off the ongoing surge in development and influx of newcomers: You’re too late.
The Vero Beach of the 1990s – or even the turn of the millennium – is history, and it’s never coming back. Creating bottlenecks and clogging up traffic on the Twin Pairs won’t turn back the calendar, or preserve the charm of downtown Vero, or improve our quality of life.
Perhaps you noticed that we just made another “Best Places to Retire in Florida” list?
Such publicity only brings more people to our community, and many of them are choosing to live here, some of them on a year-round basis. We see them in our stores, our restaurants and, yes, on our roadways, which seem to become more crowded and congested every year.
Especially on the mainland.
Particularly on State Road 60.
If anything, we need wider roadways and more lanes to accommodate the traffic already here and then handle what’s coming.
Drive around the county, and you’ll see an increasing number of new-home communities under construction. You’ll also see more commercial development headed westward along State Road 60.
We can only guess when the Twin Pairs’ seven lanes will no longer be enough.
The current and future need for those lanes, however, is only one reason any talk of eliminating them is a terrible idea – one that should be discarded the moment City Manager Monte Falls brings it up for discussion at next week’s City Council meeting.
The better reason?
It’s reckless, even dangerous.
Eliminating traffic lanes and adding those streetside parking spaces almost certainly will do more harm than good, creating conditions ripe for accidents.
Not only would reducing lanes of traffic produce more congestion, putting more vehicles in close proximity and increasing the chance of crashes, but it also would cause more frustration and possibly even incite more road-rage incidents.
Then there’s this: Allowing on-street, parallel parking would increase the possibility that someone would open their driver’s door into traffic or be struck by a moving vehicle while exiting his or her car.
Even if the city opted for angled, pull-in parking spaces, there are the risks associated with backing into traffic on a busy road.
But will any of that matter?
Or is this City Council, unlike its predecessors, determined to push through a wrongheaded change that will do long-lasting damage to the traffic flow on State Road 60 and the community in general?
According to Falls, the Florida Department of Transportation needs to know the city’s decision in August, so it can begin planning for the repaving and restriping of State Road 60 in the area – a project scheduled for the 2026-27 budget year.
Falls said FDOT resurfaces the roadway every 20 years.
A city-funded study done in 2013 determined that the Twin Pairs, if reduced to two lanes in each direction, could handle the traffic but with increased delays and congestion.
“Almost 10 years have passed since that study, and this area has been growing, so we probably need to update it,” Falls said. “Should we spend the money for another study, or leave the status quo? That’ll be up to the council.”
There is another option: Keep the seven lanes, but reduce the current 40 mph speed limit to 35 mph.
“That might satisfy some people,” Falls said, adding that FDOT would need to approve such a change because the Twin Pairs are part of a state road.
This is a pivotal issue for the entire community, not only Vero Beach, and the City Council must make the right call, which shouldn’t be much of a challenge.
Today’s Twin Pairs, with their seven lanes and 40 mph speed limit, aren’t hurting our downtown – which, despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, remains a dining, cultural and entertainment destination.
They’re not causing traffic accidents, or endangering pedestrians’ lives, or making Vero less Vero.
They’re doing exactly what they’re supposed to do: provide an easy and efficient east-west ride through downtown.
So, please, stop the madness. Leave the Twin Pairs alone.