Figure 1 - Example of a Complete Street concept
By Michael Turnbell Sun Sentinel
September 15, 2015
One of the city's major east-west roads is going on a diet next year.
Officials want to transform a four-lane stretch of Northeast 13th Street in the Middle River Terrace neighborhood with on-street parking, bike lanes and improved crosswalks.
To do so means drivers will lose a through lane in each direction between Northeast Fourth and Ninth avenues, just west of the Florida East Coast Railway tracks.
Construction is set to begin in July 2016 and will take about a year to complete.
A public meeting is set for Wednesday to present concepts for the $2 million project.
The city wants to spur economic development, slow speeding traffic and create a pedestrian-friendly atmosphere similar to what was done on a stretch of Sistrunk Boulevard, which was redesigned with narrower lanes and wider sidewalks.
The project is part of what's called Complete Streets, a national program that rebuilds or retrofits roads to make it easier for people to cross the street and walk to shops, ride their bikes to work or catch a bus.
The city tested the concept for about a week in May by closing off lanes with plastic poles between Dixie Highway and the railroad tracks.
City planner Karen Mendrala said the test slowed traffic and made it easier for pedestrians to cross the street. "Residents were seen biking and skating within the protected outer lane," she said.
Mendrala said businesses near the railroad tracks want the lane reductions extended east of Northeast Ninth Avenue. The city is reviewing whether that's possible with the current funding.
Figure 2 - Example of a Complete Street Concept
Making the lane reductions permanent isn't sitting well with some drivers who use the road as a speedy alternative to congested Sunrise Boulevard a few blocks to the south. The road, which runs from U.S. 1 to Powerline Road, carries about 14,000 vehicles a day.
"The sudden appearance of traffic cones that were apparently delineating new curb installations was quite confusing," said Chris Lovell, of Fort Lauderdale. "Not one person I talked to…felt it was a good idea to limit traffic on such an important cross street for local residents."
But Tim Smith, a former city commissioner and president of the 13th Street Alliance, said the project can't come soon enough.
"It's sure to transform the business portion of 13th from a dangerous, ugly roadway, devoid of almost any community shopping, to just the opposite," Smith said. "Most of those opposing don't want traffic slowed. But to most of us, that's the objective."
Northeast 13th Street was originally a two-lane road but was widened to four lanes in the mid-1970s. Today, it's home to a mix of middle and lower-middle class homes and stores, churches, parking lots and gas stations. Earlier this year, Warsaw Coffee Co., a Seattle-style industrial chic coffeehouse, opened, drawing big crowds.
Activists along 13th Street have been pressing to beautify the area for years.
Several years ago, Fort Lauderdale placed three African statues along Northeast 13th Street as part of a long-sought revitalization effort.
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