Twin Pairs traffic study gets green light


The first phase of a new Twin Pairs traffic study to ascertain the feasibility of reducing State Road 60 to two lanes in each direction through downtown Vero was scheduled to begin this week and take three months to complete.

Vero Beach City Manager Monte Falls said the study’s initial phase, which will cost more than $50,000, will involve collecting and analyzing traffic data with a goal of providing enough information to determine whether further evaluation is needed.

Falls said splitting the study into two phases could identify a “critical failure” early in the process and render the more-costly latter phase unnecessary.

“If the capacity was not there to support the lane reduction, it would be highly unlikely” the Florida Department of Transportation would allow such a change, Falls told the Vero Beach City Council at last week’s meeting.

The City Council voted 4-1 to spend up to $165,000 for the new traffic study, but acting on Falls’ suggestion, the members committed to only the first phase of what otherwise would be a comprehensive evaluation to determine the impact of reducing the heavily traveled, east-west corridor to four lanes – two in each direction.

Vice Mayor Linda Moore and council members John Carroll and Rey Neville have voiced their support for reducing lanes of traffic along the parallel one-way roads, arguing that doing so would make the area safer and more walkable – two ingredients they say are necessary to revitalize the downtown area.

FDOT, which has approved a $6.7 million project to repave State Road 60 in 2026-27 and is scheduled to design the project later this year, needs a firm decision from the city to accommodate any restriping.

The state agency also requires a traffic study, City Council resolution endorsing the proposed lane reduction and proof of community support.

An executive from the local office of Kimley-Horn & Associates, the engineering firm that will conduct the traffic study, said FDOT wants to avoid any further delays to the project and is urging the city to decide as quickly as possible.

Kimley-Horn conducted a similar study in 2012, and then updated it in 2017. That study found the lane reduction was feasible, but the City Council opted against spending the nearly $1.5 million the project would have cost taxpayers.

Now, though, FDOT would cover the costs of the lane reduction because it would be incorporated into the agency’s regularly scheduled resurfacing of the roadway – something done every 20 years.

Kimley-Horn’s Brian Good agreed to split the new study, saying of the lane-reduction proposal, “If it’s not viable, we’d rather spend our time doing something else.”

Mayor John Cotugno voted in favor of funding the study, despite remaining noncommittal about the project. He said he was reluctant to allot more tax dollars for yet-another Twin Pairs traffic study, but wants to see actual data.

“Everybody has an opinion on this, but nobody has produced any recent data,” Cotugno said after the meeting. “I don’t want to make decisions that are not data driven. Let’s see what we get from the first phase of this study.”

First-term council member Tracey Zudans, who voted “absolutely no” to the motion to fund another study, said the lane reduction should not be considered until the city adopts a master plan to revitalize downtown.

“It’s a cart-before-the-horse situation,” she said. “I really think it’s a waste of taxpayer money to move forward on a study without having a master plan done.”

Zudans said “it would make sense” to proceed with the safety improvements approved by a previous City Council in 2021, when members received a study that showed the Twin Pairs were safe and speeding wasn’t a significant problem.

Rather than cave to a vocal minority that pushed for lane reduction, those council members agreed to less-draconian measures, opting to reduce the speed limit to 35 mph, narrow driving lanes, widen bicycle lanes and add crosswalks.

Besides, Zudans warned, “Once we do the lane reduction, then you have to wait 20 years to undo it, if it proves to be a nuisance.”

Zudans questioned the wisdom of reducing traffic lanes along a strategic, half-mile stretch of State Road 60 as the county’s population surges toward 170,000 and challenged the logic behind the belief that creating a bottleneck will draw more people to downtown.

She also expressed concern about the “collateral damage” a lane reduction likely would have on residential neighborhoods adjacent to the downtown area.

In fact, Zudans said, “90 percent” of the feedback she has received from the community – city and county residents, and local business owners, including some that operate downtown – is opposed to the proposed lane reduction.

She said she doesn’t believe FDOT will get the “community buy-in” it requires to embark on such a project.

Moore disagreed, saying the “vast majority” of the responses she has received are in favor of the reducing lanes.

Neville suggested that reducing lanes along the Twin Pairs might not create the expected traffic backups, citing the county’s plans to widen and extend 26th and 41st streets, east-west roads to the north of downtown.

But Good said his firm’s traffic study would include only county and FDOT projects that have been planned and funded for construction within the next five years.

Brian Freeman, staff director for the county’s Metropolitan Planning Organization, said widening the 26th Street/Aviation Boulevard corridor and extending it to 66th Avenue is included in the county’s long-range plan – but the project hasn’t been funded and it could be 10 to 20 years before even the design phase begins.

Currently, the MPO has no firm plans to widen and extend 41st Street, Freeman said.

Good said the new Twin Pairs study would anticipate population growth and “make educated projections” to ensure that the roadway has the capacity to “handle these increases.”

Reducing the Twin Pairs to four lanes has been proposed several times throughout the past 30 years, but there was never enough community support to become a reality.

Now, though, there’s a City Council majority – which includes Moore, who co-owns the Kilted Mermaid, an eclectic craft beer and wine bar just off the Twin Pairs in downtown Vero – that appears ready to push the project forward.

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