Friday, August 30, 2013

Our Boulevard Nightmare

 
When I come out of work in the evening I see this, a row of cars coming at me almost on the same side of the road as the lane I want to take outbound.
At the first traffic light, at First Street appropriately enough, the Boulevard becomes one way inbound, towards Duval Street from distant Stock Island. It used to be, in the distant past a four lane road, two in, two out. It's been a year and I can hardly remember what it was like when you could come and go more or less as you pleased on North Roosevelt Boulevard, "The Boulevard" to locals. On days when snowbirds were crowding the street on the way out of town you could take Flagler or South Roosevelt and take a slightly slower route but with far less traffic. Nowadays outbound traffic is forced onto those roads and they can get jammed easily in the afternoon rush hour. On a small island one jammed street has rippling repercussions.

All of which is true and annoying, especially for people who work conventional nine to five jobs and find themselves jammed on the streets morning and evening together. However the really big problem is for the businesses which line this formerly lucrative street and now report a drop in business so precipitate many of them fear imminent bankruptcy.

From my perspective it doesn't say much about Key West shoppers, if the mere closure of one direction of the Boulevard persuades them to stay away from local stores. The whole one way loop is perhaps two miles long... And the merchants have been begging for business for a long time now, the whole year the road has been torn up in fact.

The harsh fact is that in the grand scheme of things Key West doesn't amount to a hill of beans and that fact comes as a surprise to of us who live here. When the state put this forty five million dollar job out to bid (North Roosevelt is US Highway One, not just a city street) it went a company That as usual offered the low bid and this was just one small project in their pile. So it got on the back burner and no progress has been made. It doesn't matter to the big shots that our main street looks like this with no change in sight:

The Spottswood family decided to renovate their string of hotels and restaurants from the Triangle where the road comes into the city to the former Travel Lodge which is now the Bayside Inn next to the GM dealer. I am told they gave their employees three months severance which was decent and it makes sense for the businesses to get a fresh look in time for a fresh street. The newspaper said some 500 rooms have been lost temporarily.

So our state representative, she of the vacuous smile and shiny forehead, organized a meeting and Important People came to Key West, always an attractive business destination, and made lots of noise about how sorry they were things we're going so slowly etc...and suddenly workers appeared in the muddy trench and started wandering around acting busy. Here they are finally hammering a new seawall into place. It's only been a year since they started the job...

With all this whining and moaning city commissioners decided they had to do something so they authorized night work and more controversially agreed to proposals to turn portions of the Boulevard into two way traffic October 15th. The idea is that two way traffic will encourage shopping. Personally I have some reservations about this idea.

I'm not certain two way traffic flow will make the entrance to businesses smoother and more appealing. Dust, mud and broken asphalt is reportedly putting people off so my solution would be to work day and night to finish the job and replace everything and restore normal status before we get our winter traffic jam in a few short months.

As you can see the contractor has decided too few is still better than too many hands to make light work.

I know this: when the one way flow was instituted confused drivers, and this is a tourist town filled with outsiders driving, went the wrong way on a clearly marked one way construction zone. What will happen when the flows are changed is anyone's guess. I very much doubt I will be motorcycling here after the change, not unless I get a death wish.

I saw this sign outside Banana Bay Resort and the arrow is pointing the wrong way. Thats encouraging, take a walk down Hilton Haven Road, a dead end.

For a while there the deadline had slipped to the Fall of 2014, but after the Big Cheese Gathering they promised the contractor would get back on deadline and by July next year all will be finished. Fat chance I say. It'll take more than a garden mower to finish this job.

Supposedly when this is is finished the Boulevard won't flood after a rainstorm. Currently the left lane floods after a brief squall which pushes our fearful giant SUV pilots into the sole remaining dry lane near the crown of the road. What they will do when that is their outbound lane I don't know. Put two inches of water on a roadway and everyone panics so I see a lot of panic in the immediate future. Whether that will help shopping I don't know.

They say that the construction includes building storm drains to relieve flooding so the roadway should stay dry when the work is done. Supposedly there will be median flower beds with turn lanes and a new traffic light at Searstown. I have to admit I love the inbound lanes as they are now because it's a very direct route to my job next to Bayview Park. Removing some traffic lights and dealing with reduced cross traffic makes for a shorter journey for me. I dread the return of regular traffic lights as they are so incredibly slow to change. In order to avoid sitting for minutes at an empty intersection a lot of people prefer to run red lights and instead of dealing with that, the powers that be think that adding red light camera is he solution. Nope, the answer is to install traffic sensitive traffic lights. Oh well, that'll be the day.

I guess that as usual I'll stand on the sidelines and see what happens. Hope for the best and expect...the best.