Florida Keys News
Thursday, October 4, 2012
Left turns banned at 2 intersections
FDOT adjusts to prevent backups; tourists say project OK

Two new detours will be added to city streets for the North Roosevelt Boulevard construction project, an engineer said Wednesday.

Now, no left turns will be permitted for downtown-bound traffic on Truman Avenue, onto either White or Simonton streets.

Florida Department of Transportation project supervisor Charlie Phinizy said the ban on left turns is being put in place at the request of Key West city officials.

Phinizy made a presentation to the City Commission at a special meeting Wednesday night during which commissioners and members of the public asked questions about the two-year, $41.5 million project.

He and others associated with the project faced tough questions from the handful of residents who attended.

The low-bid contract agreement, Phinizy explained, held the answer to many of their questions, as well as those raised in a recent Key West Citizen editorial.

Its terms preclude any moving up of dates -- with the exception of bonuses if crews finish up to six months early.

"We are going to do the best we can to do this project and get people in and out of Key West," Phinizy said.

The information on the Truman left-turn bans direct conflicted with a statement last week from FDOT spokesman Dean Walters, who had said that while the city had requested the change, the state was resistant to the idea.

The left-turn restriction was cited as a method to avoid the common traffic backup caused by a would-be turner.

Officials also learned that a city ordinance suspending noise laws for the Roosevelt project -- to allow some night work -- will be effective for only a handful of nights when workers will be present.

Assistant City Manager David Fernandez said two intersections, North Roosevelt at Truman and at Eisenhower Drive, will see brief spurts of night work involving removal of pipes from beneath the road.

Commissioners also learned that a survey of tourists conducted by the Monroe County Tourist Development Council revealed few adverse effects for visitors polled.

"The survey was conducted at 15 locations throughout Key West, at attractions and hotels near the site and elsewhere," said TDC researcher Jessica Bennett. "We asked people if this project would impact their decision to come back to Key West in the future, and 99 percent said no ... what most people tell us is, 'You should see the traffic where I live.'"

Among the critics was Seidenberg Avenue resident Robert Cintron, who questioned the judgment of several key decisions on traffic flow.

"I have heard nothing so far that indicates to me the folks working on this project get it," Cintron said. "There is a very severe impact on the businesses; it is also having a severe impact on the taxpayers who have used the roads, who are paying for this project ... .

"Are these people who claim to be experts on this traffic, are they staying up at night, and are they worrying about what we are going through dealing with this traffic? Do you understand that people's businesses are going to close? Do you understand what you need to do to correct the problem?"

Mayor Craig Cates and other officials encouraged anyone who cares about the fate of businesses on North Roosevelt to ask them.

Commissioners said they thought the meeting was productive, although several wished there had been a bigger turnout.

"I am disappointed that more people did not turn out in person,' said Commissioner Clayton Lopez. "I can accept for now that we are limited with what we can do to make change, but I cannot accept that there is nothing we can do."

jdesantis@keysnews.com

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