I was introduced to the preeminent traffic engineer and transportation planner, Maryam Ghyabi, by the late great Big John. He had a knack for bringing disparate people together on neutral ground then watching as they put differences aside to discover common ground on the critical issues we face.
That cup of coffee resulted in the most unlikely friendship in Volusia County.
While there are many things we disagree on – and Ms. Ghyabi’s politics are not mine – the fact is, she is one of the smartest people I know.
Some are all too quick to marginalize Ms. Ghyabi by dismissing her educated solutions as “pro development” because she happens to be the influential homebuilder Mori Hosseini’s sister.
In my view, that unfortunate bias overlooks her significant regional contributions to finding transportation solutions through diverse public/private consortiums that address current needs and plan for our future – such as her successful stewardship of projects on Oakridge Boulevard and the East International Speedway Boulevard gateway in Daytona Beach.
In addition to speaking the indecipherable bureaucratic language of transportation (trust me, there are more LOPPs, CMPs, ADTs, TIPs, CACs, TCCs, and TRIPs than you can shake a stick at) she possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of the intricacies of every major transportation initiative in Volusia County – and how the planning, engineering, and funding of these incredibly complex (and expensive) projects come together to improve mobility and traffic safety.
Most important, she cares about Volusia County.
So, when Maryam Ghyabi speaks about our growing transportation infrastructure challenges, I listen.
Our elected officials in the Ivory Tower of Power in DeLand should too. . .
On Sunday, in an informative editorial in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Ms. Ghyabi outlined the importance of community input and intergovernmental cooperation in improving LPGA Boulevard between U.S. 92 and Williamson Boulevard – an already congested section that traverses the epicenter of commercial and residential development in ‘New Daytona’ – and a major regional thoroughfare that would serve as a primary evacuation route for points east in the event of an emergency.
These improvements would include a solution to that Monument to Mediocrity that is the two-lane pinch point across the Tomoka River – a visible and visceral reminder of the absurdity of allowing massive development west of I-95 before adequate transportation infrastructure was in place to accommodate current and future demands.
The disturbing fact is – these current and future needs weren’t even considered when the various developments were approved.
Prove me wrong?
According to an analysis, between 2015 and 2019 there were a total of 514 traffic crashes on the 6.2 mile stretch of LPGA Boulevard – to include 139 involving injuries and five fatalities. In addition, estimates show that traffic volume on LPGA Boulevard will double in coming years, leading to gridlock conditions if improvements are not made:
“Therefore, in order to accommodate existing and future travel demand and improve safety on LPGA Boulevard, the Florida Department of Transportation has initiated a Project Development and Environment (PD& E) study from U.S. 92 to Williamson Boulevard, in collaboration with the City of Daytona Beach, River to Sea Transportation Planning Organization and Volusia County.”
While Ms. Ghyabi praised Daytona Beach City Manager Deric Feacher for working collegially to support local and state efforts to improve conditions on LPGA Boulevard – her editorial subtly “encouraged” Volusia County officials to “…embrace the spirit of the coalition and engage with their constituents to understand their needs.”
Sounds like someone in DeLand is stonewalling. . .
Historically, playing nice with the municipalities and “engaging with their constituents” has never been a high priority for Volusia County – and our children and grandchildren (in the unlikely event they choose to remain here) will live with the fallout of this bureaucratic arrogance for decades.
For instance, this disastrous ‘cart before the horse’ growth management strategy is just one of the many reasons – collectively referred to as “the trust issue” – why the half-cent sales tax initiative (ostensibly earmarked for transportation infrastructure) was roundly rejected by Volusia County voters who no longer have confidence in our elected and appointed officials to steward public funds in the public interest.
In the view of many, shoveling even more of our hard-earned tax dollars into the maw of the same bloated and detached bureaucracy is the textbook definition of insanity: Doing the same thing while expecting a different result.
For years, we have watched while those dullards on the dais of power in DeLand and the larger municipalities have puled about the coming disaster that is now our overstressed transportation system – even as they rubberstamped more, more, more development across the width and breadth of Volusia County.
It represents the antithesis of concurrency or effective growth management, and now this political cowardice, bureaucratic inaction, and refusal to prioritize has come home to roost.
Now, after years of official procrastination, some $10 million has been allocated for the planning, development, and environmental study of scientific methods to improve volume, safety, and accessibility on LPGA Boulevard.
With thousands of zero-lot-line cracker boxes already complete – and more land being cleared for development on LPGA Boulevard every day – it is now or never.
Both the LPGA Boulevard modifications and Tomoka River Bridge projects are currently listed on the River to Sea Transportation Planning Organizations list of prioritized projects, and according to FDOT, the PD&E study will take twenty-two months to complete.
That proves the importance of government entities working in coordination – because nothing about regionally significant transportation projects happens fast – as the bulldozers clear-cutting for more subdivisions continue to roar. . .
In my view, this isn’t about facilitating more malignant growth (look around, that horse has left the barn), but it may represent our last/best opportunity to cure the sins of the past – at least until We, The Little People elect political leaders with the moral courage to ensure the safety and welfare of existing residents and our environment while effectively preparing for future growth.
Throughout Volusia County, residents are faced with the natural consequences of gross obstructionism, an inability to think strategically, and refusal to plan for future demands – and it is time for the tail to stop wagging the dog at the Thomas C. Kelly Administration complex.
As this important study moves forward, Volusia County residents should let their voices be heard and demand that our elected officials pull their heads out of the sand and direct their foot-dragging bureaucrats to stop quibbling over trivialities before FDOT takes these scarce dollars off the table and moves forward with other equally pressing projects around the state.
5 thoughts on “Time for Strong Leadership on Transportation”
Glad your back .Hope you had a few for me.You left out a very important traffic study and that is Avalon that with 10.000 homes will make Granada a parking lot.Yes things like traffic studies on Hand Avenue that ends to 25 mph at Nova for a bridge for Avalon or one lane on Williamson in front of Advent hospital as it expanded to two lanes from LPGA to Strickland and forgot to keep going with all to Granada as the rentals keep going up.Letting Minto and her brother build on LPGA is not a screw up it is a crime That bridge over Tomoka should have been replaced first..No higher impact fees to pay for her brothers Mosaic or Mintos Margaritaville building.?That is bull.Avalon should get hit now before he breaks ground and Mynchenberg too should get higher impact fees.With the prices they charge they can afford it.Sorry I disagree with you about Mori’s sisters brains but ask Mori and his donation depot at his headquarters on Beville.Money talks no matter if he gives it to all who run.They owe him.He is the King of Volusia.
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Hey Mark, great article. Maryam made me a believer when we work together on the expansion of the interstate 4 St. Johns River bridge. I thought I was just humoring her when I joined her in that task. Stupid me. We got that bridge moved up by about a decade and nobody thought we would ever going to be able to do that. But Maryam knows people and how they operate. She is a master at bringing folks together to find solutions. We had elected leadership from both sides of the of the river. Added a private partner into the discussion and made FDOT, at the secretary level, sit at the table with us until we got it done. To this day I have warm memories and friendships that were made at that table working to make our region better. I learned never to underestimate Maryam Ghyabi.😂 Thanks for giving her a shout out. It was much deserved.
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PS. The funniest part of that story… was Randy Morris Seminole county commissioner and myself taken to the woodshed by Mike Snyder our FDOT secretary at the time, because we couldn’t agree on the color of the paint for the new bridge. I think Randy wanted some blue and I wanted a green. So Mike took A page out of Maryam‘s playbook and took us to breakfast and made us agree on a color before our eggs were served. It wasn’t blue and it wasn’t green. turned out it to be than Rusty orange color that neither one of us really liked but we knew we weren’t getting out of there until we agreed on something. I kinda like it now!
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One thing I latched onto as an Early Adopter of Barkersview was that there was some omnipresent black hand that was stifling development on East International Speedway. Starting in 2000 as a single practitioner of a Real Estate Brokerage I was able to assemble the first large parcel for redevelopment known today as the long languishing “Gateway Project” which is now a large pile of shells and river crude that sits at the base of the bridge. The next assembly was the notorious holdings of the Bittorf Family which includes the ever changing Strip Club and surrounding land of 5 acres. Before there was ever a Barkersview or any of the current list of activist I was lobbying the city for the approval of something and I mean anything that would turn the notorious strip club land into something the town could be proud of. Dealing with the likes of Reed Nothing Berger I discovered in 2006 that Maryam had a secret plan fully funded by the City for a Traffic Loop design for EISB. As I endeavored to get a copy of this Public Project, I was continuously denied by Nothing Berger under the guise that the “Plans were not Approved”. However, they were approved, because they were paid for by Tax Payer Monies and into the bank account of Ghyabi and Associates. Now this was back in 2006, and if memory serves me well it was Maryam, Jim Chisler Chisholm, and Rob Gililland who continued to champion this idea only until a few years ago when they “dusted off the old plans for a signalized intersection” after substantial Citizens pushed back. Lets not forget that no plans for anything the Bittorf Family has EVER been approved even though they have submitted at least a half dozen different ideas all of which were summarily thrown in the dumpster with no possible way to even salvage anything through some sort of compromise.
This in my opinion this is because the Traffic Loops required “Eminent Domain” and the City used the CRA as a weapon to keep property values DOWN. Maryam may be smart and she has damn sure become rich from endless studies and drawings for EISB. None of which have thus far come to fruition albeit she says someday they will.
Its a low down dirty shame that Maryam and the powers that be impacted my life in a Negative way as well as all the property owners on that street. I can tell you with confidence that the City has always had back door plans for those properties as evidenced by the Chamber of Commerce video which clearly depicts 12 story properties on the Bittorf Assemble, yet they were never even consulted by anyone at the Chamber and have never been able to overcome the 3 story height restriction on the property, even though if they were able to engage Robb Merrel (if he didn’t have a conflict of interest) they could have gotten approved for buildings in similar height as the Gateway project or the Longboard which were high density and only a stones throw away. 500 and 1500 feet away respectively.
Im no fan of Maryam, she shape shifts for studies which keep her RICH, fat, and happy!!!!
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It is, of course, a crime that 12,000 units (about 17,000 cars) have been approved before the Tomoka Bridge widening. But approved they are; a quarter of the people are already here. Yet “prioritization” you mentioned is quite low on the list (which you didn’t mention) to widen LPGA and the bridge. This needs to be funded ASAP and moved to the top of the list, whatever it takes. May Ms. Ghyabi-White’s efforts (along with those of other folks) succeed to correct this failure of previous leadership.