In a city where equality for individuals is heavily promoted, commissioners want that same for Wilton Drive.
On July 26, commissioners chose Concept 1 for the redesign of Wilton Drive. That plan calls for sidewalks on both sides of the street to be widened. Concept 2 only included the widening of sidewalks on the west side. The Florida Department of Transportation [FDOT] is tasked with designing the project but final approval rests with the commission. The city will hold future meetings to give the public a chance to comment on the design.
Commissioner Julie Carson said business owners on both sides of the street should “get a piece of the pie to enjoy.” Vice Mayor Scott Newton said he was “looking to get the best bang for our buck.” Mayor Gary Resnick said he wasn’t a fan of “the east side being left out.”
The redesign, known as a “road diet” will reduce the street from four lanes to two. The hope is that the reduction will improve pedestrian safety and make the street more appealing and helping business owners by attracting more visitors.
In addition to widening the sidewalks, included in the plans are stamped asphalt crosswalks, additional trees and patio areas. But both sides won’t get exactly the same treatment. Those palm trees and patio areas will be placed in the middle of the new sidewalks but only on the west side of the street, according to the design presentation provided by FDOT.
The project is funded by the Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization. The project won’t cost the city any money unless officials decide to add additional landscaping, trees, benches or other features. Those extras will have to be paid for by the city.
Additional parking spaces will also be added to the existing spots on the street but not many. Advocates of the reduction had hoped for a substantial number but Dwayne Darbonne, a consultant for FDOT, said it would not be a significant number.
Commissioners have unanimously supported the redesign but not all the residents are in agreement. The most vocal opponent has been mayoral candidate Boyd Corbin.
He’s made opposing Wilton Drive one of his campaign platforms, started a petition to that effect and called for more input from residents. Corbin has said reducing the street to two lanes will cause major traffic problems.
Commissioners have said that Fort Lauderdale’s plans to narrow Northeast 4 Avenue now necessitate the need to narrow Wilton Drive. Not doing so, they say, will encourage drivers to speed up when they leave Fort Lauderdale and enter Wilton Manors. But at the July 26 meeting, Corbin countered that Fort Lauderdale’s plans for Northeast 4 Avenue could be reversed by restriping the road. In contrast, the plans for Wilton Drive involve altering the road structure and can’t be as easily undone.