The lane reduction of Wilton Drive has been approved by the Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization Board [MPO].
The Florida Department of Transportation [FDOT] will still have to approve the project but Commissioner Tom Green, who is also a member of the MPO, is glad support for the reduction has finally reached this level.
“I was thrilled to be able to very quickly motion to adopt it,” Green said. On April 14 after unanimous support from the city commission, the MPO approved the lane reduction of Wilton Drive and Northeast 4 Avenue in Fort Lauderdale. Previous city commissions were hesitant to take over Wilton Drive and reduce the number of lanes, from four to two, because of cost. But the state will now fund the project with the use of some federal dollars.
Proponents of the reduction say it will improve pedestrian safety, add more parking and make Wilton Drive better for business owners. They want the street to look more like Las Olas Boulevard.
On Facebook, Doug Blevins, chair of the Wilton Drive Business Improvement District and longtime advocate of the reduction, called it an “amazing historical day” for the city. He thanked the volunteers of the former Main Street group and commissioners. “We have lost far too many lives to tragic pedestrian/vehicular incidents. Greg Futchi was the last person killed on Wilton Drive last year and a personal friend to many. These lives lost are not lost in vain. Here's to a Brighter, Safer and More Beautiful WILTON DRIVE.”
At the April 12 commission meeting where officials reiterated their support for the project, Commissioner Tom Green called it a “once in a lifetime chance.” Green also said the lane reduction would force drivers to slow down and pay more attention to the businesses on Wilton Drive. “This is good for business. You might even stop and shop.”
Opponents of the reduction have cited the adverse impact it could have on traffic.
In a report issued to the MPO for its April 14 meeting, Florida Department of Transportation officials say they’ve reviewed a preliminary analysis of the traffic impact by the City of Fort Lauderdale and they do not “anticipate adverse impacts to vehicular capacity on Northeast 4 Avenue and Wilton Drive.”
Commissioner Justin Flippen said the city is also capable of handling any traffic problems that might arise. “We are fully capable to address those issues as they come.”
Resident Paul Kuta said the issue should have been put to voters through a referendum. But commissioners said they are confident they have enough input from the public. Before the regular commission meeting on April 14, the city held a special meeting to let the public express its support or opposition. Mayor Gary Resnick said the issue has been discussed for many, many years and that the public would have the opportunity to influence the design of the lane reduction.