Live Oak Road residents seek to block traffic
STORY BY LISA ZAHNER, (Week of June 16, 2011)
Live Oak Road residents want to live on a dead-end street so drivers can’t cut through from A1A en route to the Barber Bridge, but erecting a physical barrier could have unintended consequences.
The 54 families who signed a petition to cut off Live Oak Drive probably won’t get the cul de sac they want, but the 20 or so residents who showed up at a Vero Beach City Council meeting last week certainly got City Hall’s attention.
“It’s absolutely super dangerous to be out walking now or to be out walking the dog,” said Live Oak Road resident Jan Jelmby, owner of Helmet House Construction.
Jelmby is one of several influential community and business leaders who live on Live Oak Road. Another is Council member Tracy Carroll and her husband, John.
Vero Beach staff will meet with Central Beach residents at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Riverhouse to brainstorm about solving their traffic complaints. Some options that will be discussed are signs, speed humps and restriction of the flow of cars attempting to save a few minutes on their way to and from A1A.
The group came out in response to an item on the agenda proposing installation of a sidewalk on Indian River Drive East -- a sidewalk that the majority of the neighbors consider to be a band-aid for a more serious public safety ill in Central Beach.
“Why are we putting a sidewalk in if we don’t think we have a traffic problem? We know we have a traffic problem,” said R.J. MacMillan, a native of Live Oak Road and organizer of the neighborhood petition drive.
‘There’s a lot of houses for sale on our street,” MacMillan said. “If you had a child or wanted to walk the road, it’s not a fun road to have a child.”
Some road resurfacing and elevation was also scheduled in the area to try to prevent road flooding. The road project was tabled pending the negotiation of a satisfactory outcome with Central Beach residents.
The city already has lowered the speed limit on Live Oak to 25 miles per hour, but residents say drivers are “doing 50” on their residential street despite the risk of getting a ticket.
Interim City Manager Monte Falls, who does double duty as public works director, said the goal would be to make cutting through Central Beach less attractive to drivers. He mentioned speed humps or “speed tables” which are not like speed bumps in a parking lot, but which require drivers to slow way down to pass over them.
“If we can slow the cut-through down, we can make it convenient to drive on the streets that it’s designed for them to do so,” Falls said.
Falls did not give MacMillan and his neighbors much hope about getting Live Oak Road dead ended, because he said the traffic would be spun off to other streets like Conn Way, Date Palm Road and Greytwig Road or Eugenia Road. Or drivers might opt for speeding down Mockingbird Drive instead of Indian River Drive East, which seems to be a shorter short-cut anyway.
“We want everyone to know that the meeting is going to take place, not just those who happen to be here,” said Councilman Craig Fletcher.
Blocking off the road could set a precedent for residents of the other streets who might want cul de sacs as well. Eliminating access to all those streets would diminish the connectivity of the Central Beach neighborhood.
The issue has revealed some strong feelings about the drivers perceived as using Live Oak Road to shorten their commutes to shopping or dining.
“You don’t need to have people from John’s Island cutting through at 50 miles per hour,” said Cheryl Millikan, who lives on Indian River Drive near the curve around to Live Oak Road.
Councilman Brian Heady asked if staff could put up a right-turn only sign on Live Oak Road where it intersects with A1A, and a “no right turn” sign on A1A. Staff told Heady that any signs changing the traffic flow on A1A would need to be approved by the Florida Department of Transportation. Heady wanted the sign shop to make the signs anyway, and earlier this week, the “no right turn” and “no through traffic” signs went up.
Residents admitted traffic on Live Oak Road eases over the summer, as it does elsewhere on the barrier island, but at the same time, they are eager to get something done about the problem before snowbirds return.