Events along the stretch of road called Powerline have for many years served as the source of my civic involvement here in our Island City.
Beginning over 10 years ago Powerline called out for help to deal with the boarded-up, county-owned multi-family Como apartment building and the derelict under-utilized city-owned Mickel baseball field.
Today Powerline is calling out once again in an attempt to have this stretch of roadway from Sunrise Blvd to Oakland Park Blvd transformed from the cold decayed vehicular speedway of yesteryear into a thriving residential thoroughfare that can safely be used by vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians.
Back in 2012 we witnessed the vacant, boarded-up 2-story 16-unit Como Apt building transformed from a blighted structure into a wonderful community asset that provides affordable housing to residents. Local efforts by many in our community facilitated our county leadership to take action and supply the necessary funding that allowed South Florida Community Land Trust to bring about this Powerline success story.
The power of Powerline continued on in 2014, when our city made the historic decision to completely fund the renovations to Mickel Field at a cost of $1.27 million. In just over a year’s time this under-utilized, outdated and dangerous city-owned park facility was transformed into a city gem that now serves as a showpiece for our entire city.
Once again local efforts by many in our community gave our city officials the support needed to bring about yet another Powerline success story. This success story continued on, when in 2016 our County Commissioner Tim Ryan secured the necessary funding for the much-needed Children’s Playground area for this park — bringing about the completion of a dream for many in our community.
Continuing on in 2016 and 2017 it seemed like the Powerline success story would keep on rolling along at full speed. News of area Complete Streets projects, which included the stretch of Powerline Road from Sunrise Blvd to NW 29th Street, hit the news headlines.
Promises of lane reductions, more room for bicyclist, greater safety buffer for pedestrians and a more pleasing roadway environment were music to the ears of so many.
Residential neighborhoods in Fort Lauderdale and Wilton Manors that border the speedway for motorists also known as NW 9th Avenue might actually be transformed into a neighborhood thoroughfare where families could walk and ride bikes alongside a narrower roadway.
Then something started to change. The band stopped playing, the party came to an end, and dreams began to fade. The promise of Complete Streets turned into nothing more than a bargain-basement road restriping project along this stretch of Powerline Road.
FDOT left us with no clearly marked bike lanes, no streetscape enhancements, no new pedestrian lighting, no enhanced crosswalks to schools and park facilities, nothing but a re-striped roadway that left bicyclist and pedestrians at the mercy of speeding vehicular traffic, now ever more dangerous due to unmarked bike lanes, lack of signage, and no safety apparatus in place.
But hope never dies and neither did the surrounding community’s dreams of a better Powerline Road. Many residents were vigilant in requesting more action be taken to address the missed opportunities in the original road narrowing project by FDOT back in 2017.
Calls for safer pedestrian crosswalks, clearly marked bike lanes, road safety enhancements, better lighting and streetscaping have been given a second chance, a new opportunity for dreams to become reality.
Many new concerns have also been raised for the current project underway from NW 29th Street to Oakland Park Blvd. by local residents affected by traffic patterns.
This week FDOT has joined with the cities of Fort Lauderdale and Wilton Manors along with members of the surrounding communities to conduct what is being called a “Safety Audit” to address the various concerns raised by so many in the community.
Unfortunately the naysayers are plenty, including some in our city government, that have not yet embraced the vision of stopping vehicular traffic from dominating our neighborhoods.
Traffic calming techniques, pedestrian and bicycle safety, crosswalks, traffic lights and speed control will make Powerline blossom into what FDOT describes as a Traditional Neighborhood Development.
This stretch of roadway is mainly single-family and multi-unit residential, has school zones, three city parks and tremendous potential to be transformed into a shining example of urban thoroughfare renewal leading to a transformative change to the communities that surround Powerline Road. Let us hope that regional and local officials take the necessary action to bring about this much-needed change.
Stay engaged, remain positive about a better tomorrow, and keep the power of Powerline Road alive by shouting as load as you can to cheer over the naysayers that life is just better here…
Sal Torre has been a columnist for the Wilton Manors Gazette since its inception. Sal has served on the Wilton Drive Task Force, Budget Review Advisory Board, and Charter Review Board, among others. Sal is currently President of the Westside Association of Wilton Manors and Secretary for the Friend of the Wilton Manors Library. He is employed with Broward County in the Human Services Division.