Is another sidewalk really needed?


Will we ever be able to travel up and down the island along State Road A1A, or to and from the mainland over one of our bridges, without constantly seeing orange barrels and cones warning of the hazards created by some new construction project?

Probably not in our lifetime. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) seems determined to keep motorists constantly on guard and off-balance with its stretched-out projects. Other utilities like FPL and Florida City Gas have also contributed to traffic woes with constant digging, tree cutting or power line upgrades along the side of the road.

We already know that the rebuilding of the 17th Street bridge, which has reduced traffic to one lane in each direction, is supposed to last 4 or 5 years, well into 2028.

Now FDOT has announced plans for the addition of a second sidewalk along A1A in the South Beach area, from Jasmine Lane just south of the 17th St, causeway all the way to the St. Lucie County line, a distance of 5.5 miles.

The project has an estimated price tag of $10.8 million. It is scheduled to start early in 2027 and extend for more than two years until the summer of 2029, or after the bridge rebuilding will supposedly have been completed, although it is well known that FDOT construction plans often suffer delays because of inclement weather, supply chain problems or other contractor issues. No contractor has yet been chosen for the second A1A sidewalk, since construction is still in the design phase.

The project will be implemented in phases and will feature temporary traffic control plans to minimize delays. It is aimed at improving safety for pedestrians, and perhaps cyclists also, and as such is supposed to be another indication of a shift in FDOT priorities, away from a singular focus on motorists and toward the needs and wishes to other users of the public roads such as pedestrians and cyclists.

However, at least some of those current users of the road are not convinced at all that they need this latest disruption, or that it will provide a significant benefit. The impending project has already caused a split among pro and con factions of residents and business owners and managers along the island’s main traffic artery.

Apart from the addition of the sidewalk along the east (ocean) side of A1A, the project also includes plans to “mill and resurface, rehabilitate and restore” and asphalt pavement of the roadway, according to Maria Formoso, a community outreach specialist for FDOT.

She said the project was undertaken because of a request from Bike Walk Indian River County, Inc., a local nonprofit organization. The project also includes widening bike lanes on each side of the road, similarly to what was done earlier along other stretches of A1A farther north. But the latest request from the organization dates to 2018 and specifically referred to northern sections of the highway.

A new sidewalk addition got qualified support from Marsha Sherry, the broker at The Moorings Realty Sales Company office. “We always welcome any improvements to our community,” Sherry said, “especially as it concerns pedestrian safety.” Sherry, whose development includes homes on both sides of A1A, noted that The Moorings has always supported more protected pedestrian crossings and expressed the hope that the project will also include some of those, too.

As for the disruptions from constant construction, Sherry said it was too early to comment.

“We don’t know yet what will happen or if it will happen.”

FDOT said that before the first spade goes into the ground, there will be a public information meeting some time in 2025 where the public can ask questions and provide comments. No date has yet been set for the meeting, but notifications will be sent out to all adjacent properties, according to Formoso.

The president of a homeowners association (HOA) further south on the ocean side also gave qualified support. “It can be dangerous to cross the road to the other side where there is a sidewalk,” he said. “We have a lot of people walking their dogs in the morning and since we don’t have a sidewalk on our side, that’s what they must do. I moved here seven years ago and it’s so much busier now, both with more people and more traffic.”

But, he added, before he can give his full-throated support to the project, he has some questions that he needs answers. “I want to know exactly where it’s going and who’s going to pay for ongoing maintenance.” He explained that his development already happens to have a small piece of sidewalk, but he’s had problems trying to figure out who’s responsible for fixing cracks, whether it’s the state, the county or the HOA itself.

On the other side of issue, the manager of a real estate investment firm on the ocean side said she doesn’t know “why we would need another sidewalk. I don’t see many people using the one we already have on the other (lagoon) side.”

That sentiment was echoed by a female resident of a home on the ocean side just off A1A. “I don’t see too many people using the sidewalk we already have on the other side, so I don’t understand why we need another one. I think they’d be better off spending the money elsewhere.”

On a recent weekday morning of another hot day, with the temperature already pushing 90 and high humidity, there was only one sweaty pedestrian to be seen and an even sweatier jogger who had to pause a moment before he could cross the street safely to jog back the other way along the side of the road with no sidewalk.

“I think the whole thing is ridiculous,” said an elderly pedestrian who walks every day up and down the existing sidewalk along the west (lagoon) side of A1A. He declined to give his name because he said he doesn’t want to become a target of haters on social media. “We don’t need it (the additional sidewalk). I think it’s a tremendous waste of taxpayer dollars.”

He said he gathers that FDOT plans to do the same thing on his stretch of A1A as was done earlier on the part of the road between the bridges and “I understand that didn’t do much good, either.”

“Let them spend the money on fixing up this sidewalk that we already have,” he added.

“There are all sorts of cracks and it’s broken up in parts. That’s the kind of help we need for pedestrians.”

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