Complaints by Sunglow Street homeowners about speeding traffic could produce traffic-calming fruit

PORT ST. LUCIE – The wheels of the cars speeding down Southwest Sunglow Street near Oak Hammock K-8 may not be squeaking, but the street connecting Southwest Gastador Avenue to Southwest California Boulevard may end up getting the grease in the form of a speed table approved by the City Council here.

Council members acknowledged that potential remedy March 22 after hearing complaints by Sunglow Street homeowners Michael Stabile and Mark and Sheila Selinger.

The three residents addressed the Board during the Public to be Heard portion of the meeting, a time reserved for non-agenda topics. Mr. Stabile told Council members he’d lived on the street for 12 years and seen a significant increase of speeding traffic over the last few years as their neighborhood built out.

“Some of the cars are going 60 and 70 miles an hour in a 30-mile zone,” he said. “We recently had an accident – there’s a huge skid mark going half-way up the street – and this is right near Oak Hammock Elementary School. So, you do have a lot of kids walking up and down the street – there’s no sidewalk there – and you have cars going very, very fast.”

Mr. Stabile attributed the problem, in part, to the fact that Southeast Sunglow Street is the primary route in or out of his subdivision.

“There’s one other side street, but Sunglow’s really the main artery going to the houses in the back,” he added. “So, you just have a lot of traffic coming in and out. People think it’s like a highway, a speed strip going up this street.”

He was followed by Mr. Selinger, who said he and his wife have lived on the same road for a decade and agree with his neighbor’s sentiments.

“As Michael alluded to, Sunglow is the only ingress and egress into a neighborhood of 200 homes with a middle school at the corner of Sunglow and California,” he said. “There’s going to be a fatality soon. There have been three car accidents so far this year on the street. There’s a school bus stop at the corner of Colorado and Sunglow where the children actually sit in the street on the asphalt waiting for the school bus while the cars speed down the street.”

When told by someone at the city’s Engineering Department the residents would need a petition signed by their neighbors in order to have a traffic study done, Mark and Sheila Selinger did just that. The former, however, believes the results were skewed by the incorrect placement of the speed monitoring device.

“They put it by the turn [in the road] so that the statistics are all flawed, showing 40 percent of the cars traveling under 30 miles an hour,” Mr. Selinger explained. “When we asked them to reinstall this monitoring device at another location, we were told we’d have to wait another three years. So, that’s my request that the City Council: to ask the Engineering Department to be more cooperative with this plea for the speed bumps and perhaps save some lives.”

His wife provided further details on the results of the traffic study, which revealed some vehicles traveling at high speeds despite the sharp turn at the road’s midpoint.

“When they did the survey, they found we had two [speeding] cars during the school time,” Mrs. Selinger said. “One had gone over 70 miles an hour – this is during school hours – and another was between 76 [mph] and off the chart. My husband actually saw the speeding and said somebody had just gone by our house going over 100 miles an hour. This was at 9 o’clock in the morning.”

Such out-of-control motorists have Mrs. Selinger leery of even heading to the end of her driveway to check the mail.

“I’m afraid to even go out to my mailbox because who knows who’s going to be coming down the street,” she added. “This is crazy – this is a neighborhood with children on their skateboards and bicycles. One of the accidents was actually the crossing guard at the school. They need your help to protect our children and our lives.”

As soon as the public comment period ended, Mayor Gregory Oravec asked City Manager Russ Blackburn for an update on a response to the Sunglow residents’ concerns

“Mr. Manager you and I had a conversation before the meeting,” he said. “It was my understanding that, based on the citizen feedback, you were going to have the Engineering Department reevaluate the traffic study. Is that correct?”

“Yes, Mr. Mayor, [and] I’ve also sent that to the Police Department for some selective enforcement there for someone driving 75 miles an hour,” he explained. “If that’s happening, it needs to stop.”

Mayor Oravec then informed the trio of the potential solution to their traffic woes.

“We can’t actually do speed bumps, [but] we can do what are called speed tables and other devices which achieve a similar end,” he said. That is one of the devices that can be used to slow traffic. One of the great things about our traffic-calming program is the City Council can determine priorities. Now that being said, a lot of people in Port St. Lucie would want traffic calming on their street, and so we have to prioritize. That’s why Engineering does have standards, so that we can prioritize based on objective factors.”

Vice-Mayor Shannon Martin then chimed in, emphasizing that her Google Earth search proved the residents right in their assessment of the neighborhood’s limited access.

“There’s really only one main thoroughfare, and this is clearly an issue,” she said. “Unfortunately, it’s not people from out-of-town – it’s your own neighbors. It’s really sad, but that’s what we deal with, so I’m looking forward to what comes out of that reevaluation. I can tell you right now, just based on the way this grid is laid out and the only access point, I’m going to be in favor of addressing this from a traffic-calming standpoint.”

Councilwoman Jolien Caraballo concurred but worried the solution itself could create other issues within the neighborhood.

“If we’re able to go ahead and award speed tables, that’s one of those things that has a double-edged sword,” she said. “As soon as we do speed tables, then we have neighbors complaining that people can’t stand the sound as they’re going over the speed tables and that reverbs into their homes. So, there’s that delicate balance of correcting a problem for one or two violators.”

The vice-mayor, in turn, said she’d gotten no complaints about one installed near Woodland Trails in her district but believes such traffic-calming measures need to have teeth in order to be effective.

“When you make those speed tables high enough, those cars have to slow down,” Ms. Martin explained. “They have no choice: Otherwise they’re going to take out the undercarriage of their car. The key is to make them high enough to make them slow down.”

Councilman David Pickett – the newest member of the Board – admitted to having had previous contact with the concerned residents because Southeast Sunglow Street lies in his district.

“Hopefully when the data comes back, it shows that it warrants a speed table there because it certainly sounds like it,” he said. “As the city grows, it’s just going to get worse. So, we need to become more aggressive [and] set the tone now. Increased enforcement and getting more aggressive with traffic tickets is paramount.”

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