Column: On a Slow Boat to China

SFGN File Photo

Those of you not familiar with this old saying, the phrase was popularized back in 1948 by the song, “On a Slow boat to China,” written by Broadway composer Frank Loesser. The phrase moved into general parlance to mean anything that takes a very long time. The idea was that traveling by boat to/from China was about as long and slow a trip as one could imagine. 

Unfortunately for us here in the Island City, this seems to be the preferred mode of transportation for many city projects. From wrapping utility boxes with local art to wayfinding and entrance signs, it seems like a lot of city projects, long approved and funded, have taken a slow boat from China and have not yet arrived.

The Andrews Avenue redevelopment is another prime example. Over five years ago, the Westside Association made its initial presentation to our city’s Planning and Zoning Board. That presentation laid forth the challenge, calling on city management to make the necessary Land Use and Zoning changes that would foster much needed growth and improvements to aging commercial properties along the corridor. We are still waiting on the completion of just the initial stage, the Land Use changes. Hopefully the next phase of the process is not far off on the distant horizon coming in on that slow boat from China. 

Actually, one does not have to look too far down on the horizon. Just point your gaze past Oakland Park Boulevard to the wonderful road improvements, medians, and bike lanes completed by the county and the City of Oakland Park. And as your eyes gaze down Andrews Avenue across the border, one will also notice the utility boxes that have been artistically wrapped for more than a year. The City of Oakland Park must have expedited shipping on its projects. 

Understandably, the entrance and wayfinding signs might be strategically held at bay while work is completed along Wilton Drive. However, there are many other entrances to our Island City besides the one at Five Points. The wayfinding sign program might actually need to be expanded due to the many drivers cutting through the Westside of town who then get lost in the maze of streets that do not directly cut through to Powerline and Andrews Avenues. 

Residents have given up hope on the installation of speed bumps and other methods to decrease speeding and cut-through traffic on neighborhood streets full of pedestrians, dog walkers, and bicyclists. The importance of traffic calming is not a recent issue for residents. 

This problem is listed as a main objective in the Strategic Plan for our city, dated 2001, “Goal #5 - Objective #1 - Safe Streets - Controlled Traffic Flow - Pedestrian Friendly.” Almost 20 years later and there is still no comprehensive strategy to deal with the vehicular traffic issues that plague our Westside neighborhood, short of the multiple stop signs along NW 29thStreet. 

Speaking of NW 29thStreet, can someone please tell me what happened to the Complete Streets project that was to take place along this stretch of roadway? There is no longer any mention of this project, so I’m guessing it was placed on the back shelf in someone’s office or was lost in transit on that slow boat from China.

Looking back to 2012, the Economic Development Task Force recommended the creation of a “Photo Spot” somewhere along Wilton Drive.  Seven years later, and we are still waiting for the “Photo Spot” to arrive on that slow boat from China. 

Another recommendation from 2012 was the creation of a Beach Trolley to bring visitors staying at local beach guesthouses and hotels to the restaurants, bars, and nightclubs along Wilton Drive. Perhaps with funding now available through the penny sales tax for transportation, we should revise this very important possibility for our city. Visitors can enjoy the beach during the day and “The Drive” at night, all without need for parking and increased traffic safety issues. 

Island City residents have advocated for many much-needed changes for years. Many of these plans have been voted on, approved, and budgeted. Unfortunately, the process and delivery of these projects have been on that slow boat from China. We need to pick up the pace and start fast-tracking these projects to completion. We have been waiting so long that new residents are advocating for similar projects, unaware that they have been approved and funded, but unfortunately still not completed.

As the next ship heads out to sea, I would like to say Bon Voyage to our past mayor, a city pioneer, a unique legend of Wilton Manors and a friend, King Wilkinson. A dynamic figure in our city for many years, he was always ready to support and assist fellow residents, encourage participation in our municipal government, and give a few words of advice if you stopped by Red’s Bar seeking some guidance on a particular issue in our city. 

Thank you, King Wilkinson, for making life in Wilton Manors just better here.

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