Above we see the Boulevard, as North Roosevelt Boulevard is known to locals, denuded of coconut palms to prepare for the roadworks. These below are still in place reminding us what the drive past New Town used to look like and will no longer, in very order.
The view out of the car window will look the same. The State had plans to install an unsightly but "safe" metal fence along the bike path to keep addled cyclists from falling into the water but the outcry was so loud they relented and promised a slightly taller concrete wall to keep pedestrians and cyclists from plopping into the Gulf Of Mexico. One hopes it will be sufficient to keep the occasional drunk driver from launching their cars as they sometimes do.
The roadworks should last almost 900 days and the prospect of three years of chaos is driving strong residents to dark corners of the devastated city to weep and gnash their teeth. Stories of extended delays leaving the city are legion, with Glynn Archer Drive (known to some as 14th Street) closed and the Boulevard one way only all the way to Truman Avenue, things are a mite confusing.
It's been going on a few weeks now but at the beginning people were ignoring the signs and driving outbound causing several near misses and helping to sow confusion in an already messed up traffic pattern. Hence the profusion of intemperate remarks in the newspaper.
There was one brilliant letter earlier this week where the author detailed the total lack of actual physical work occurring in the construction site and I have to concur. It's amazing there are a couple of miles of torn up street with absolutely nothing at all happening. Combine that observation with the fact that traffic in New Town will be chaotic for almost three years and you can see why these hard hats are making no friends anywhere in the city.
Businesses are already reporting plummeting sales, though this is of course very slow season in Key West, but it's obvious why people are tending to by-pass the chaos. You can get into Key Plaza via 12th Street off Flagler Avenue but once on the Boulevard you can't turn right. You have to turn left and go to Fifth Street to start the circuit again.
Until the two and a half mile project is finished in mid 2014 project engineers say they plan to have two inbound lanes at all times. It's the getting out of town that is proving to be tough, and the lines on Flagler are annoying a lot of people.
The 42 million dollar plan also includes sorting out the dreadful flooding that occurs on much of the Boulevard at the least meteorological provocation. A heavy shower tends to close off one or other lane leaving the crown and a lane on each side open to drivers. Supposedly the engineers have a dastardly plan to fix this perennial problem. I shall believe it when I see it.
No flooding, a smooth surface and proper turn lanes will be nice. Currently the wide open median marked by yellow lines confuses most zombies in their boxes as they have no idea how to signal, change lanes and turn with anything approaching savoir faire.
At the moment once past the interminable traffic
light at Kennedy, the second slowest in the known universe, the light at Southard and Whitehead being the slowest, the Boulevard is wide open all the way to First Street.
Not that the killjoys want us driving too fast you understand.
And the removal of the light at 5th Street also known as Macmillan Drive (named for the British Prime Minister who visited town with President Kennedy) has sped up traffic immensely.
I've heard rumors that lights will be installed in front of Searstown, which will be a huge impediment of course. In Santa Cruz California where I lived for years the idea of responsive traffic lights improved traffic circulation immensely.
In Santa Cruz the lights change immediately in response to cars, motorcycles and even bicycles approaching a red light. In Key West lights stay red for what seems hours as traffic piles up and waits for no cross traffic at all. There are several lights that are so slow I can easily outflank them by going round the block!
With all this work I am sure no such modern lights will find their way into this 21st century renovation. In fact I am hardly affected by the closures as I go home early in the morning and avoid the snarl ups. Another reason to work nights!
I have come to the conclusion that making New Town a one way circle would improve traffic flow beyond anyone's wildest dreams. Make North Roosevelt inbound and Flagler outbound permanently and ease congestion forever. Such a brilliant idea would lead to revolution in the streets I am quite sure, as most people abhor change. Just think how a handful of sticks-in-the-mud killed the proposal to have. A pedestrian zone on a couple of blocks of Duval Street. Great idea killed stone dead.
Luckily in Key West the sun always shines no matter the rubbish we humans cast around down below.
How the snowbirds will react this Fall when their innate sense of entitlement butts up against the reality of traffic jams and road closures and bloody minded residents, I am sure I don't know. It might be fun to watch though.
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