Construction on the second phase of the Wekiva Parkway began on May 2, bringing the Tavares community one step closer to a complete Central Florida beltway. With ongoing construction, there could be increased congestion on adjacent streets, creating a need for officials to implement safety measures to avoid accidents.
The first three-mile section of the parkway, which opened to the public earlier this year, was pitched to locals as providing a safe travel alternative to busy area roads such as US 441 and SR 46. However, many residents argue that the Wekiva Parkway project’s goal of providing safer and less congested routes to commuters is being undermined.
In the construction of the first three-mile stretch of Wekiva Parkway, temporary entrance and exit ramps have been installed on the windy 45 mph Mount Plymouth Road. Many residential roads with 25 mph speed limits feed onto Mount Plymouth. Both Mount Plymouth Road and its adjacent side streets may see an increase in traffic as drivers flock to the newly installed Wekiva Parkway, posing potential safety hazards to the residential community.
By instating tolls on such a short stretch of road, the Wekiva Parkway project may also push local drivers to take alternative routes in greater numbers, all to avoid toll costs. As Mount Plymouth Road is also a route of choice for those seeking toll-free alternatives, the increased traffic from both those avoiding and opting to use Wekiva Parkway may pose a serious traffic safety risk.
Wekiva Parkway project spokeswoman Mary Brooks told the Orlando Sentinel that once construction has finished on the rest of Wekiva Parkway, the exit and entrance ramps at Mount Plymouth Road will be removed. However, with the project slated to be complete in 2021, these entrance and exit ramps may become a long-time nuisance for those living near Mount Plymouth Road.
In anticipation of increased traffic on Mount Plymouth Road and its nearby residential roads, here are five recommendations for how Lake County officials can help people avoid getting into potentially serious car accidents.
Temporary Speed Bumps
Speed bumps are one of the best deterrents for “cut-through motorists,” or drivers using area roads and side streets to bypass construction and traffic on streets with slower speed limits. These motorists, who are often commuting to and from work, are more likely to speed through these residential areas, posing a risk to pedestrians and children at play. In addition to being effective at reducing speeding traffic, speed bumps are also one of the most inexpensive traffic calming measures to build.
Raised crosswalks are speed tables that are elevated to allow motorists greater visibility of pedestrians. Raised crosswalks increase safety both for motorists and for pedestrians crossing busy roads, according to transportation consultancy Fehr & Peers.
Curb extensions are an effective and aesthetically pleasing way of shortening the distance pedestrians need to walk to cross the street. By extending the width of the sidewalk, often into the parking lane, the roadway is narrowed. This encourages motorists to drive slowly and pay close attention to intersections.
Derived from the French verb chicaner, meaning “to trick,” chicanes are a traffic calming method that involves creating artificial turns in a road, often in an S shape. This road shape requires drivers to maneuver deliberately and slowly. Chicanes can also add to the curb appeal of the neighborhood when sculptures or plantings are added to them.
Raised medians are elevated islands built in the middle of the road. Along with providing a physical barrier between traffic lanes, raised medians are helpful to pedestrians, allowing a shielded space between lanes of traffic on especially wide roads that may take a long time to cross. Seen often in boulevards, raised medians can be dressed up beautifully with plants and flowers.
The full impacts of the Wekiva Parkway construction are yet to be seen, but local Tavares drivers should prepare accordingly for congestion on area roads and potential alternative routes.