The Santa Rosa Island Authority and Escambia County hosted a public input meeting March 29 at the Beach Fire Station to discuss making Ariola Drive one-way and opening Avenidas 19 through 22 from Maldonado to Ariola Drive.
Santa Rosa Island Authority Executive Director Paolo Ghio instructed three dozen in attendance and those who were online to email their comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline to submit comments is April 7.
He said concerned citizens have contacted him about the difficulties maneuvering around parked cars and the safety concerns of a two way street that is oftentimes reduced to one lane due to onstreet parking. An option to make Ariola Drive one way with a portion of the south side being used for parking was offered.
Ghio stated facts in considering changing Ariola Drive to one way include challenges to garbage pick up and mail delivery. Truck operators and postal service would be able to reach one side of the street only, so changes would have to be made to the location of mailboxes and garbage cans.
Escambia County Transportation Engineer Christine Fanchi said that making the street one-way would not necessarily make it safer as drivers increase speed without having to be cautious about oncoming traffic. She added that restriping and new signage would be required. Fanchi said comments would be tallied up and if a change were to be proposed, traffic studies would follow.
Suggestions from residents included: prohibiting on-street parking on Ariola and hardening the southside shoulder for parking. Concerns about the one way proposal included: Wrong-way drivers, increase of traffic on Maldonado and increased flooding concerns. Proponents of the change stated that Ariola Drive is unsafe in its current configuration and parking violations are not enforced.
Ghio, then told the group that Avenidas 19-22 were platted to continue through to Ariola Drive in the original 1954 plans. It was not an attempt to take property, they had always been intended to be through streets. The idea proposed is to harden the Avenidas with Bahama rock to connect Maldonado and Ariola Drive. There would be no parking on the Avenidas. The shoulder would remain soft sand. Completing the streets would serve to reduce traffic on Ariola, reduce the overload of traffic on Avenidas 18 and 23.
Residents outlined concerns of parking enforcement, environmental impacts and that more space would lead to more traffic.
Escambia County Public Safety Director Eric Gilmore said that completing the Avenidas would allow Fire Department and emergency vehicles easier access to homes in that area.
Escambia County Commissioner Robert Bender said he had heard from residents with concerns about congestion hampering the Beach School bus and firetrucks, as well as difficulties in accessing their own homes and driving on Ariola was much like a game of frogger.
Transportation Engineer Fanchi summarized the choices as to Ariola Drive: 1) it can remain the way it is, 2) it can be made one way; or 3) it can be two-way with no onstreet parking. As to the Avenidas being completed she said there were two choices. The first is to do nothing and the second is to cut them through using a Bahama Rock surface and there would be no parking on those streets.
Interested parties should send their comments to email@example.com. SRIA Director of Administration Robbie Schrock and Developmental Services Assistant Melody Bolster will be monitoring the email address. The email and comments will be taken under consideration when decisions are made about the two topics.