It’s your choice. That’s what Dwayne Darbonne, from Metro Consulting Group, told commissioners during his Wilton Drive presentation on July 12.
Darbonne, a consultant working with the Florida Department of Transportation, presented two possible concepts to the commission last week.
The concepts involve reducing Wilton Drive from four lanes to two to make the street more pedestrian and business friendly, similar to Las Olas Boulevard.
“This is your vision,” Darbonne said. “You can’t do the infrastructure and engineering without knowing what the future is.” Although the Wilton Manors officials have unanimously expressed support for narrowing the street, they want more input from residents and business owners before a final decision is made on the design.
Both concepts involve shade trees, adding parking spaces and widening sidewalks. The first concept would widen certain sidewalks on both sides of the street. The second would only widen sidewalks on the west side. Officials say public buses, taxis and ride sharing services will also be considered in the design.
Darbonne estimates only about two dozen parking spaces will be added. “We’ll do a few more, but it’s not going to be substantial.” Proponents of narrowing the street had hoped for 80 to 100.
But the whole street won’t be redesigned. Darbonne said only portions will be changed to have “the greatest impact, the greatest benefit” with the $2.8 million construction budget provided.
But if commissioners want to add additional landscaping or other features after construction is completed, it will have to be funded by the city or through other sources, such as grants.
Doug Blevins, chair of the Wilton Drive Improvement District [WDID], said that board would use its funding to help pay for improvements to Wilton Drive. Previously, the majority of WDID members have stated they were in favor of supporting the lane reduction. WDID is funded by an additional tax levied on Wilton Drive property owners. It was approved by a majority of owners.
Previously, commissioners were against the lane reduction because the money would have had to come from the city. But now that the cost to alter the street won’t be something the city has to pay for, commissioner support for the project has become, they say, a matter of safety.
Fort Lauderdale is narrowing Northeast 4 Avenue from four lanes to two. Officials say that if Wilton Drive is four lanes and Northeast 4 Avenue is only two lanes that will encourage drivers to speed up once they get onto Wilton Drive. “I really see this project as the only way we will slow down traffic in Wilton Manors,” said Commissioner Tom Green.