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Commission to vote on future of Broadway

Posted on Friday, August 11, 2017 at 6:00 am

By Ken Jackson
Staff Writer
Downtown Kissimmee business owners and others connected to the Main Street-Broadway-Emmett Street corridor agree that a key to helping business in that area is slowing down the flow
of traffic.
After nearly two years of studies that took into account the different characteristics of each segment of the 1.4 mile stretch from John Young Parkway to Vine Street, planners will present Kissimmee City commissioners Tuesday with a pair of plans to

One plan in trying to make Broadway better for downtown businesses would be adding a roundabout in front of the Kissimmee Police Department.

alter the road to make the business district less of a “pass-through” and more of a “come-to” that people would stop in, shop in and eat at.
According to a downtown Kissimmee corridor study conducted in 2015, a plan design will likely emerge in 2019, right-of-way acquisition in 2020, with construction scheduled to begin no earlier than 2021.
The first plan, Alternative 1, is more cosmetic than physical. It would add bike lanes to Emmett, add “tabled intersections,” where the street is raised to the level of the sidewalk and include a roundabout at the Ruby Avenue-Stewart Avenue intersection. Under the plan, Main Street would also get several new crosswalks.
The more drastic Alternative 5 would remove one lane in each direction to reallocate the space for other uses: bike lanes, on-street parking or wider sidewalks. The study cites another nearby case — Edgewater Drive in Orlando — where lane reduction enhanced pedestrian and bicycle activity, decreased car crashes and enhanced nearby property values.
“Alternative 1 is more of a short-term solution, Alternative 5 would be long term,” city Senior Planner Randy Schrader said. “Staff is not specifically recommending either alternative, as it’s ultimately up to the commissioners to decide which alternative they want based upon Tuesdays discussion.”
While both plans would achieve the goals of slowing traffic, the business community overwhelmingly supports Alternative 1. They’re against Alternative 5, which Kissimmee Downtown Business Association President John Fields said the group is “100 percent opposed to the massive overhaul of our downtown streets, Broadway in particular.”
“This option would have an incredibly negative impact on each and every one of our merchants, restaurants, and businesses. The utility of making Broadway one lane is not surpassed by the traffic gridlock and the life safety concerns that such traffic gridlock would bring to the downtown.
“In our opinion, option 1 is definitely the more desirable option for us. We recognize the need to slow down the traffic in our downtown and we feel raised intersection tables, additional speed humps and other traffic calming measures, would serve the purpose beautifully. It is our opinion that lowering the speed limit and adding the aforementioned traffic calming measures would be welcomed.”
Tom Lanier has run Lanier’s Historic Downtown Marketplace, an antiques store, with his family in the heart of the Broadway corridor for over two decades and has seen a handful of proposals to “fix the street.” He said removing the lanes would bring traffic speeds down — and a lot of gridlock.
“They’re trying to build up the residential population downtown, there’s a couple hundred units and a hotel coming to Mosaic,” he said. “The city has to accept this is a main thoroughfare. People coming through downtown is good for the businesses here. We’ve lasted 23 years.”
He said option 5 is “not a bad way to go.”
“I’ll give the roundabout a whirl,” Lanier said. “We have to have slower traffic for the safety of pedestrians. I’d like to see more enforcement of the speed limit (25 mph) we have now.”
Three other alternatives — removing the Broadway median, removing on-street parking and turning Broadway and another street into one-way pairs were removed from consideration due to public opposition, safety concerns and being inconsistent with the project purpose.
Through interviews done on an online survey and in person at the Kowtown Festival and other events, 872 people were asked about downtown. The biggest issue was that Broadway and downtown should be a destination, not a thoroughfare. Pedestrian safety, problematic intersections, parking, traffic congestion and land use and redevelopment also made the list.
Whatever Tuesday’s outcome is, Kissimmee Main Street Director Diana Marrero-Pinto said she stands ready to support city merchants through any transition.
“We agree there is a need to slow down traffic as we simultaneously beautify our downtown and retain its historic integrity, thus making it more pedestrian friendly and creating a more desirable shopping and leisure experience,” she said. “We will assist in any way we can to achieve that.”