The lengthy construction project between the bridges to add sidewalks, bike lines and pedestrian crossings on the east side of State Road A1A has some island residents ecstatic about the eventual benefits, but many complaining about increased traffic hazards during construction.
The $4 million project managed by District 4 of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) started last spring and is more or less on schedule to be finished this fall.
Construction has been phased to reduce the impact on the community, according to FDOT Project Manager Humberto Arrieta, and occasional lane closures were limited to non-peak hours, between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. to avoid the morning and evening rush hours and between 9 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. on weeknights.
The rebuilding of A1A extends from Jasmine Lane just south of the 17th Street Causeway northbound along A1A past the Riomar Golf Course and the Central Beach residential area to Banyan Road, just north of Beachland Boulevard.
The contractor on the project is Zahlene Enterprises, Inc., of Miami, which has been rotating crews of construction workers, mostly Cubans and other Latin Americans, from South Florida into a rented home in the area. Last week, work was concentrated mainly close to the Beachland Boulevard intersection where a backhoe was preparing the terrain for a portion of the new sidewalk.
The project involves repaving and restriping existing asphalt pavement, widening the roadway to accommodate a 7-foot buffered bicycle lane, building a 6-foot sidewalk (curved where space permits such as alongside the Riomar Golf Course), upgrading drainage, bringing existing curb ramps up to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards, and adding two on-request signalized pedestrian crossings mid-block at Iris and Dahlia Lanes.
“I think it’s going to be absolutely fantastic,” said Michael Cofone, who lives right next to A1A at 716 Azalea Lane. “Sure, it’s a little dusty and dirty right now during the construction, but that goes with the territory for a construction project. You just have to accept that as the price for the eventual benefits.
“We are thrilled,” Cofone said, referring to the goal of making the road safer for cyclists and pedestrians alike. He anticipated that many Central Beach residents will want to use the signalized pedestrian crossings to reach Riverside Park and its many attractions on the west side of A1A.
“The motorists may have to slow down a bit at times at the pedestrian crossings, but they’ll just have to get used to it,” Cofone said.
However, a female resident along A1A a few blocks further south did not agree. “I wish it had never been done in the first place,” said the resident who asked that her name not be used. “They had a similar plan to add sidewalks on the east side of A1A further north, by John’s Island, but they were able to stop it.”
In October 2018, the Indian River Shores Town Council, in response to concern from town residents, sent FDOT a letter strongly opposing a planned 2.3-mile sidewalk on the east side of A1A, requesting an expanded bicycle lane instead. Weeks later FDOT scrapped the sidewalk and re-engineered the plan to include more space for cyclists.
Several years before the Shores took on FDOT plans, the South Beach Property Owners Association mounted similar opposition to an eastern A1A sidewalk on the southern part of the island.
The Vero woman who thought the Shores had the right idea said traffic has really backed up during construction and the situation was made worse by the fact that on almost every one of the Central Beach streets, home construction projects are in progress which means that heavy construction vehicles have to make the turns into the narrow streets past the A1A road building barriers.
She said piles of sand for the construction projects have been hit by trucks and cars several times at corners. “The sand is scattered all over the place,” she said.
“When I’m trying to turn left out of my street to go south on A1A, traffic is often backed up northbound, so I have no way of seeing if anyone is coming in the southbound lane,” the woman said. “The long line of cars is blocking my view. Trying to get across is a nightmare.”
She said one morning the traffic situation was almost comical. “A construction guy was holding up a stop sign, trying to get traffic to stop to let someone get through, but he was holding it kind of diagonally, so no one had any idea who was supposed to stop.”
Before the project started, FDOT held a virtual meeting to explain the purpose and the scope of the project to which all local public officials as well as residents were invited to hear the explanations and ask questions.
FDOT also said it sent letters to all property owners and occupants of homes within 500 feet of the project explaining how they would – and would not – be impacted, but few if any residents recalled getting any such letter or invitations to attend the virtual meeting.