Is it really necessary for me to preface these logorrheic screeds by stating the obvious?
In the interest of full disclosure: I’m not a traffic engineer.
I don’t know squat about transportation planning, roadway design, “lane flow equations” or the geometry of intersection mapping.
Hell, I’m lucky if I put my shoes on the right foot four out of five days each week. . .
I’m just an over-sauced asshole with a chip on his shoulder and an opinion about everything – a dull oaf who graduated Magna Cum Laude from the School of Hard Knocks. . .
But, like many of you, I have a finely honed Sixth Sense, a preternatural sagacity, carefully cultivated by years of experiential learning and sharpened by repeat victimization that permits me to see and avoid bullshit from a mile away.
That said – in my professional opinion – putting a “roundabout” at the intersection of East ISB and A-1-A is a catastrophically bad idea.
It just doesn’t work there.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not one of the many who seem to have a pathological hatred of all roundabouts – in fact, I know of several places where traffic circles work well.
I was recently in my birthplace of Kingsport, Tennessee, a progressive community that is transforming itself from a down-at-the-heels industrial town into a very livable place with a plethora of amenities, quaint pocket parks and revitalized neighborhoods where 1930’s mill worker houses are being transformed into very desirable real estate.
The city is unique in the fact it was one of the first in the nation to be designed by a city planner and landscape architect.
Nicknamed “The Model City,” the community was organized into distinctly separate areas for centralized shopping, worship, commercial space and tiered neighborhoods escalating from starter homes at the foot of the hill, then rising in a weird, almost caste-like system by income to estate properties at the crest.
These early planners incorporated some of the first roundabouts in the United States into the city’s transportation infrastructure – and in that suburban setting – they work well, calming traffic and moving people from point A to B with an efficiency that signalized intersections simply cannot match.
In fact, studies by the Federal Highway Administration show that traffic circles can increase capacity by 30 to 50 percent compared to traditional intersections.
The fact that many of the traffic calming circles in Kingsport have been beautifully landscaped and adorned with modern sculpture simply adds to the charm of traversing the community.
In my uneducated view, the key factors for the successful implementation of circular intersections are location and application – considerations that simply don’t “work” at a major intersection which hosts the busiest beach approach in Volusia County.
Being the narcissist that I am – it confounds me when ostensibly smart people can’t immediately recognize the same potential problems that I do – like the fact putting a roundabout at East ISB and A-1-A simply isn’t a “good fit” – then wasting weeks, months and years debating the issue, ad nauseum, at interminable public meetings, “visioning” sessions and perpetual presentations before spending millions in public funds on consultants and the preliminary design of things that may never happen.
I suppose it represents the life cycle of a tax dollar once it’s taken into the gaping maw of the Florida Department of Transportation – but the “process” (if that’s what you call it) still baffles me.
At a recent public meeting on the issue, many residents rightfully and adamantly opposed the roundabout, citing a variety of legitimate issues from special events to beach access and the radical impact the required widening of East ISB will have on long-established local businesses.
During that meeting, a consulting engineer, whose firm is being paid handsomely to assist in the planning and design phase, did his level-best to assure the assembled long-suffering residents of the Halifax area that, “We’re here to listen. We want to provide a design that fits your needs. At this point we’re an open book.”
That’s when my highly-developed bullshit detector I was telling you about kicked in. . .
Whenever someone paid with public funds to provide political insulation to bureaucrats uses the words “we’re here to listen,” “fits your needs” and “we’re an open book” in the same sentence, it evokes an immediate pilomotor reflex that causes every fine hair on my body to stand erect like porcupine quills.
That’s when I know to gird my loins.
When I was in the military, we used the acronym BOHICA – Bend Over, Here It Comes Again – now, I just refer to it as Volusia County government in action. . .
Trust me – with the roundabout plan supported by the Daytona Beach City Commission, something called the “International Speedway Boulevard Coalition” and the illustrious River to Sea Transportation Planning Organization (a group which, I assume, is at least partially responsible for approving massive residential and commercial developments on LPGA Boulevard just west of the patently obvious pinch point at a two-lane bridge over the Tomoka River, among other massive infrastructure deficiencies) – and some $5 million in public funds already spent to purchase property on East ISB and another $750,000 allocated for project design – you can bet your bippy we’re getting a traffic circle whether we like it or not. . .
I happen to agree with a recent editorial in The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Everyone agrees we need to “do something” with that horror show on East ISB – our “historic and symbolic” gateway which looks more like an avenida in some third-world shithole than a seaside tourist destination.
(Don’t take my word for it – take the family for a drive on East ISB – or have a gander at the intersection of Main Street and A-1-A – the epicenter of our core tourist area – a place that has left more than one family in tears, regretting their annual vacation selection, as they ask for directions to anywhere but here. . .)
But the nightmare conditions in our core tourist area aren’t limited to one stretch of roadway – and all the $24+ million roundabouts in the world won’t repair the fundamental social, economic and civic issues that have been allowed to fester for years.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be putting the cart before the horse here?
With an estimated $120 million “spent” on panacea projects and bonds (or directed to all the right hip pockets) in the Main Street Redevelopment Area over the past 35-years – with nothing to show for it but crippling stagnation, blight and dilapidation – we find ourselves in a true conundrum that will require a level of strategic vision and strong leadership that I fear we simply don’t have here on Florida’s fabled Fun Coast.
I hope you won’t lose sight of that fact as our ‘powers that be’ keep us distracted with cheap talk about fancy roundabouts and far-off traffic improvement projects on our beleaguered beachside.
Because that is exactly what they are doing.
And with our “civic award season” just around the corner – don’t be surprised when a bunch of preening assholes with all the right last names keep taking personal credit for a project that, even under perfect circumstances, won’t turn dirt before 2023. . .
We’ve heard it all before.
Good luck and God bless. We’re going to need it.