St. Augustine Commission Hears Plans for Traffic Changes

St. Augustine Commission Hears Plans for Traffic Changes

Officials in tourist areas are always looking to find a balance between the needs of residents, business owners and visitors, especially when it comes to traffic. For St. Augustine, keeping cars and pedestrians safe and moving at the iconic Bridge of Lions is a concern, but a solution may be on the way.

At a recent meeting, city commissioners were briefed on intersection improvements at the base of the Bridge of Lions by Assistant City Manager Reuben Franklin, including the results of a public meeting held this past November by the Florida Department of Transportation.

“We are in the public input process,” Franklin said, adding that another public meeting is scheduled for Feb. 20 to discuss proposals for reworking the intersection to improve traffic flow and cut down on congestion in the area.

Franklin said city staff has been working on intersection improvements since 2017 looking for ways to accommodate the large volume of traffic “in a very constrained space” in the heart of downtown. He said if the commission decides to leave things as they currently are, “We’re basically locking in the traffic pattern around the Plaza which is two lanes westbound and two lanes eastbound.”

Franklin said the city’s mobility plan calls for finding efficiencies that are possible in the existing road network. “If we have a little room, if we can play with the area there we can get efficiencies out of the intersection,” he said.

Currently, most of the westbound traffic coming over the bridge continues north, he said.

“Most of the concepts we’ve been looking at is how do we facilitate that traffic that wants to go north,” Franklin said.

Franklin was quick to point out the proposals are not designed to increase the capacity of the road, but only to improve the intersection.

That was a concern of Commissioner Jim Springfield.

“After reading a book I got on city planning, if you make an eight-lane highway, you’re going to fill up eight lanes,” he said. “If we shorten the line (of cars at the intersection) more people are going to come to the line is my fear. I’m just a little concerned about making it better then increasing the number of cars.”

Mayor Nancy Sikes-Kline said that is something commissioners must consider if they decide to go forward with the improvements.

“We have to make that decision (of) what we we’re willing to trade for more efficiency,” she said. “I think there are some really intriguing concepts here.”

Sikes-Kline said it is important state transportation officials consider St. Augustine’s unique history and needs.

“We can’t fit into a DOT box,” she said. “Whatever they do is going too have to be a little more tailored to what we want to do here.”

Franklin said city staff will come back to commissioners after the Feb. 20 public meeting with additional information.