VERO BEACH - The debate over reducing the number of lanes in the “Twin Pairs” section of SR60 through downtown Vero Beach has returned to the agenda of the Vero Beach City Council.
The Twin Pairs is the section of SR 60 bordered by 20th Ave. to the west and Commerce Ave. to the east. For this portion of the road, SR 60 eastbound and SR 60 westbound are divided by about two blocks of businesses, so that it is one-way traffic in each direction. There are three lanes for eastbound traffic on the southern portion of the section and, two blocks north, four lanes for westbound traffic.
According to City Manager Monte Falls, the Twin Pairs were constructed by the Florida Dept. of Transportation about 28 years ago.
“When the Twin Pairs was conceived, I-95 ended at Vero Beach,” Mr. Falls told the city council on March 29. “It was designed to get traffic from I-95 to US 1.” The road was not designed for the benefit of Vero Beach. Rather, it was designed to speed up the journey for people traveling from further north to points further south.
What the city is considering, as they have since at least 2005, is “traffic calming improvements” that would include a reduction from three lanes to two lanes for eastbound traffic and from four lanes to two lanes for westbound traffic.
The city’s analysis of the strengths of the proposal are that “the lane reduction adds 80 parking spaces to downtown, increases pedestrian and bicycle safety, lowers overall count and severity of traffic accidents, and slows vehicle speeds through downtown.”
The weaknesses, the city says, are that the city would need to sustain support for the project, including some financial support, for the next five to ten years. No funding source has been identified for the project which, depending on design, could cost the city up to $410,000.
Mr. Falls said that the opportunity to alter the road only comes up about once every 20 years, when the state is planning road resurfacing. This point was emphasized by Mayor Robert Brackett.
“We only have this opportunity about once every 20 years to do this, if we want to look at it,” Mayor Brackett said. “If we choose to do nothing, then it will be another 20 years before anybody else can do something.”
According to a staff memo from Public Works Director Matthew Mitts, the abandoned lanes would be used for parking, turn lanes, and wider bike lanes.
“Benefits of the project include adding approximately 80 parking spaces in the downtown area, increasing bike lane width from four to seven feet, wider sidewalks and safer pedestrian crossings, slower vehicle speeds, and a reduction in overall traffic crashes and severity of crashes through the downtown area,” Mr. Mitts said. “Downtown groups such as the Historic Downtown Economic Development Zone Committee favor the project.”
“Negative impacts from the lane reduction would include a reduction in capacity of SR 60.”
The city performed studies on the idea in 2013 and again in 2017.
“Traffic impacts were projected out to the year 2035 based on historic traffic data and forecasts on future growth,” Mr. Mitts said. “The feasibility study points out that 21st Street would receive an additional 1,100 vehicles per day in the year 2035. Intersection delays would increase by six and 11 seconds for east bound and west bound SR 60 respectively. The report also states that impacts to evacuation events, such as hurricanes, would be minimal.”
According to Mr. Mitts, the best time to do such a lane reduction would be when the FDOT does their resurfacing of SR 60. That project is currently stated for design in 2023/2024, with construction in 2026/2027.
While there is not yet a definite timetable for the city to act, Mr. Falls urged the city to be proactive.
“If we were going to do something, we would have to let DOT know that” before they start designing the next road resurfacing in the next few years, Mr. Falls said.
“The process to move forward would include another formal lane reduction application to the FDOT,” Mr. Mitts said. “The city should also consider adopting the lane reduction into the comprehensive plan or adopting a resolution showing support for the concept of reducing lanes on SR 60.”