Guest Column: Issue of operational necessity

The Commissioners Albatross

Bruce A. Maguire
St. Augustine, FL

Why should we commit to an albatross when the issue of “operational necessity” has not first been determined?

The current option being discussed by the Commissioners would require a portion of the existing four lane road (South Castillo Drive) to be reduced by one lane. Regardless of the numerous faux reasons for eliminating any lanes of traffic, there is only one reality: removing one lane will reduce traffic flow!

Operationally, this is the most critical of all problems. Didn’t the three Commissioners see the traffic stagnation over the big holiday weekend recently? Can you imagine this happening every weekend we have good weather?

The Halback Design Group openly claimed that studies have shown a reduction of the north bound traffic from two lanes to one lane will not reduce traffic. Within a perfect traffic scenario, that may be a possibility, but it is not the entire picture. As was brought up by one citizen, the traffic count may remain the same, but it will take a longer period of time to move them. We have the perfect example today with the southbound traffic on South Castillo Drive. One lane is removed to allow for construction of the newly created trolley drop-off lane. Do you really believe the traffic is moving at the same pace as before.

The 2009 FDOT traffic count for Avenida Menendez averages 17,300 cars per day. Note I said “average” and there was no mention of deviations from the average. The FDOT study also reflects a traffic increase by as much as 10% between June and January and a drop by the same amount between February and May. That means we could see an average of over 19,000 cars on the Avenida and Castillo Drive during a single day. The study did not present a median number nor could I find an hourly count. Do the numbers yourself, 19,000 cars between 7:00 am and 7:00 pm equates to one car every 20 seconds non-stop.

Heaven help us if there is an accident. What about fire trucks, police cars and ambulances?

No one has addressed the two other causes of congestion. First is the bridge itself. Every 30 minutes during the peak traffic hours of each day, the draw opens; creating a backflow of cars waiting to cross. When the bridge lowers, a flood gate is opened and a wave of vehicles descends on the Avenida. By the time the congestion dissipates, the draw opens again.

The second factor is normal peak hour spikes. The traffic along the Avenida does not move at a constant flow from midnight to midnight. We all know that traffic peaks in the early morning (school traffic, work traffic, delivery traffic, etc.) and again late in the afternoon. It is these spikes of heavy traffic that destroys the concept of “average” traffic capacity. A single lane of traffic cannot handle the “spike”.

This project will kill tourist traffic into the City from the north and from the island.

In its initial mission statement, the Reconnecting the Castillo to the Bayfront project was offered to make improvements to the bayfront and A1A in time for the City’s 450th Commemoration in 2013-2015. However, this grant funding has the potential to provide capital funding for improvements to the bayfront and A1A, leaving improved connections between downtown and the Castillo – bayfront for the community’s benefit long after the celebration.

Bruce Maguire is a life-long resident of St. Augustine and Green Cove Springs. He graduated from the University of Florida where he was awarded a Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree in Business, with a specialty in Real Estate, investments and planning. Following 21 years in the Air Force as a fighter pilot, Mr. Maguire retired at the rank of Lt. Col. and returned to St. Johns County. He served four years as a County Commissioner, presiding as Chairman for one year. During the four years, he represented St. Johns County on the North Florida Regional Planning Council and the Metropolitan Planning Organization. He was appointed by the Governor to serve on the 2010-2020 Florida Transportation Plan development board. He currently owns and operates several businesses within the community.

Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News staff photographer

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