Walkable West Palm Beach

Quadrille Boulevard could be first to be redesigned for livability, safety

14 Comments

Last week, I received a letter with FDOT responses to public comment made at the August 27th open house meeting regarding the project to resurface and restripe Quadrille Boulevard from Clematis Street north to Dixie.

Quadrille blvd TIP project MPO

Project details from FDOT

To briefly recap the meeting, about ten stakeholders showed up. Every single person was united in a desire for more livable street design and safety, including narrowing of travel lanes and addition of some combination of bike lanes and/or parallel parking. I did not hear anyone express enthusiasm for the FDOT plan as it stood and a good deal of the conversation was a hearty debate about Lane width, with many present attacking FDOT for building dangerous by design roads through our city. Mr. Le, PE, stated that FDOT essentially does not allow lanes of less than 11′ on a road with a design speed of 35 mph or greater. This begs the question: why does FDOT feels it is necessary to have a design speed well over 35 mph through an urban core, with all the data indicating how speed kills? Why are our roads designed to prioritize speed, rather than safety?

At one point in the meeting, after listening patiently to the engineers explain their plan for their stretch of roadway ad nauseum, I interjected strongly to state our position for what we want, as a resident and representative of our neighborhood. It was apparent that the officials were merely going through the motions, checking off the necessary boxes in a process to lead FDOT to where they want to end up. Unsurprisingly, the response letter I received reflected this, essentially dismissing all of the comment myself and others made. At least I included Speck’s recommendations for this segment of Quadrille and it is in the public record, for what it’s worth.

This is a very timely debate as the public’s simmering discontent over dangerous by design county and FDOT roads builds to a boil. Jeff Speck’s article last week puts the onus on FDOT to prove why 10′ lanes shouldn’t be built in an urban setting, with ample evidence to back up the safety benefits. For its part, FDOT has recently issued a memo supporting Complete Streets, a positive move in the right direction for which they are to be applauded. Meanwhile, on a project for which they could make a safer and more responsive choice, today, by simply restriping lanes differently, FDOT is ignoring this mandate. Cognitive dissonance, anyone?

Even our local MPO director is pushing for safer designs that account for all users. He recommends we start with resurfacing projects such as this one. It doesn’t have to cost a bunch of money. From the Sun Sentinel:

“We need to think about reconstructing what we have in a better fashion,” said Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization executive director Nick Uhren, at a recent meeting. “How do we implement complete streets in resurfacing projects? How do we improve safety on roads for cyclists and pedestrians?”

The Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization, the county’s transportation planning agency, is pushing for the concept.

As the planning organization is updating its long-range plan, it has added the implementation of complete streets principles as one of its top goals with the focus on redevelopment areas and urban centers such as downtowns.

Here’s what the Federal Highway Administration’s PEDSAFE tool recommends for Quadrille Boulevard. Fewer lanes, lane narrowing, and bike lanes top recommendations.

Pedestrian_Safety_Guide_and_Countermeasure_Selection_System

FDOT has an opportunity to align words with deeds and make our streets safer and more livable, now.  Let’s take the opportunity to restripe this roadway in a manner that supports complete streets and safer transportation for all users.

14 thoughts on “Quadrille Boulevard could be first to be redesigned for livability, safety

  1. I wish you’d post this on the DNA’s website, as well as on your own FB page and Engage WPB’s. I suppose you already have. It needs as wide a circulation as possible. Also, have you forwarded it to the mayor and commissioners and Raphael and the DDA Board?

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    • Thanks Susan. Please feel free to circulate. I think it’s more powerful if others distribute than if I do so, so our public officials see there is widespread support for what I write about.

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  2. Mr. Le is wrong. The Florida Greenbook provides a wide variety of roadway conditions. Under the TND Standards, slower design speeds and narrower lanes are permitted. The TND Chapter includes easy to understand analysis for application.

    The question to FDOT, is why are they not applying the TND Standards for this project?

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    • Good to know information, thank you. Downtown WPB is considered a Transportation Concurrency Exception Area (TCEA). I believe this means traditional urbanism is encouraged and trips generated is expected to be lower due to the walkability and multi-modal nature of downtown. Is that correct? If so, why wouldn’t TND standards be the default downtown?

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  3. I’m really glad you were at this meeting, Jesse. Thank you.

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  4. Jesse: I was one of the 10 that attended this meeting, and you are right! I was surprised that FDOT still thinks like it is 1984. Like you, I got a written reply from Mr. Len that was so frustrating for its inaccurate and incomplete replies to the public comments and concerns expressed, I moved on. On a positive note, you are bringing this back to the forefront. Keep fighting my friend. A smarter, more walkable WPB is at the heart of a better future for our city.

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  5. I also got a frustrating reply. It was the same things I was told at the meeting – whatever I asked about was not part of FDOT’s responsibility for that stretch of road. It was always someone else’s job to come up with the vision and then request that the road be designed that way. And as a layperson who doesn’t know who I am supposed to ask for bike lanes? At least they said they’d pass on my request for a bus shelter.

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    • “when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” . Instead of designing a contextual solution to make this a better, safer stretch of roadway that considers the adjacent land uses, FDOT just wants to keep on hammering nails.

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  6. Same. I posted the responses I received to twitter – only good news was that they might remove the right-turn lane on to Clematis.

    I was a worried during the meeting when I was told 40mph on a city street was “slow” traffic, but I thought maybe they finally understood what we trying to say. Frustratingly, it seems not.

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  7. Let me guess the conversation with FDOT went something like this:

    Citizen – I would like a street that is safe for bikes and pedestrians and an economic engine for my City.

    Citizen – I read a report that the City of West Palm Beach commissioned by an international expert on walkability. The report showed that by simply narrowing the lanes to a 10′ width we could accomplish all of these goals. There would be no additional cost to FDOT for this change. This seems like such a great idea. We should be doing this on every street in the City.

    FDOT – We are award of the complete street movement. In fact FDOT is so serious about this that we have a new chapter in our design manual called Traditional Neighborhood Design (TND). This chapter of the manual allows us to do everything you have requested.

    Citizen – Wow your manual allows you do this. When can you get started?

    FDOT – In order to make these changes the speed limit must be 35 MPH or less. Unfortunately, the road has a current speed limit of 40 MPH. Therefore, we must use the urban highway portion of the manual.

    Citizen – I doesn’t make sense for a street like this in an urban downtown core to have cars traveling at 40 to 50 MPH. I don’t like to walk or shop on a street where cars drive by a 45 MPH. I’m not an engineer, but I am sure that if we were to make changes such as narrower lanes and add on-street parking cars would travel at 25 to 30 MPH.

    FDOT – The current speed limit does not allow for these changes. The current speed limit is 40 MPH and we must provide 11′ lanes for your safety.

    Citizen – Whose safety? Wouldn’t I be safer if cars were going slower. This road will not be resurfaced for another 20 years. If we don’t make the change now it will be more costly to make the change later. We could install temporary paint and perform a trial study for a year. If there were problems we could go back to the way it was.

    FDOT – The current speed limit does not allow for these changes. Review of the speed limit and low cost changes to implement complete streets weren’t in our scope of services. There is a comment card in the back of the room. Thank you for coming to the public meeting.

    Other thoughts. It would be nice if FDOT let the City be responsible for the regulatory signage of this road. FDOT could still maintain the asphalt and drainage. By Florida Statute City’s have an easier time for enacting blanket wide 35 MPH speed limits without engineering studies. FDOT is hampered by the 85% percentile requirement. The bigger issue is we need to let Engineers be City Engineers and not code readers or highway engineers.

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  8. Thanks all for the comments. I continue to press for a better design for this roadway. I’d like to invite any of you interested in contributing to write on the blog. We need to keep this dialogue going and I cannot do it alone. Thanks.

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  9. Pingback: Who knew? – FDOT design manual already encourages narrowing lanes to 10′ to add bike lanes | Walkable West Palm Beach

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