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Traffic Accidents, Congestion Major Concerns Voiced About Cypress Gardens Boulevard

Traffic Accidents, Congestion Major Concerns Voiced About Cypress Gardens Boulevard

by James Coulter

Traffic accidents and congestion routinely plague Cypress Gardens Boulevard, and The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) wants to help alleviate these ailments with the help of feedback from local residents.

Last week, the FDOT District One, in partnership with the City of Winter Haven, hosted several community workshops to receive input from residents on how the city’s main road can be improved for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians alike. The overall project focuses on Cypress Gardens Boulevard, specifically the three-mile portion stretching from State Road 17 to Cypress Gardens Road.

An open house was hosted on Tuesday evening, with community workshops hosted the following days on Wednesday and Thursday. During these meetings, local residents, business owners, and city staff members were able to meet with FDOT representatives, discuss common traffic problems, and formulate potential solutions.

Ian Lockwood, Project Manager, was one of the four people, along with a safety engineer, landscape architect, and urban designer, present that week to meet with locals. He has 33 years of experience designing roads.

During their three meetings, he and his team were able to identify an overlap of common problems in certain areas. They were able to formulate a consensus of these challenges, including excessive speeding, difficult intersections, and traffic accidents.

“The consensus is that there is a lot of excessive speeding between 10th Street and Cypress Gardens Boulevard through one intersection,” Lockwood said. “It is getting really busy…and it is not very attractive. So that is a very good consensus, that it is not conducive to the quality of life that people want here.”

In other places, traffic accidents are quite frequent. There have been many incidents where motorists drive so quickly that they lose control over their car and end up driving off the road and into a ditch, pond, tree, or telephone pole.

The overall quality of roads to service cyclists and pedestrians as well as motorists is another challenge. Some proposals include expanding bike paths while maintaining overall motor vehicle capacity. They also want to install more trees along sidewalks to provide more shade to cyclists and pedestrians.

Lockwood and his associates wish to use their input and suggestions to facilitate an upcoming rehabilitation project scheduled for the next three to five years. In the meantime, they want to take some intermediary steps during that time by potentially obtaining stimulus funding.

“Our concepts will go into a rehabilitation project that the state is leading over the next two to five years, so some of the [common problems] will get constructed over that, and hopefully,

more ambitious ideas will happen,” he said. “And if we get stimulus money, perhaps some of those ideas can get accelerated.”

They want to address everyone’s concerns about the road. However, they also realize that many suggestions and proposals conflict with different interests. Local businesses, for example, want a quick and easy route for potential customers, Lockwood said.

“So, some of the objectives are competing, and our challenge is to get the mix of changes so that we don’t focus on one group or another group, so we get the balance of competing objectives,” he said.

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