PORT RICHEY — Late last month, City Council voted in favor of again altering the way traffic flows around the restaurants, bars and public spaces of its riverfront Waterfront Overlay District west of U.S. 19-Gulf Coast Highway.
The focus area is, primarily, the square created by the north-to-south-situated roadways of Bayview Street and Old Post Road and east-to-west-situated roadways of Treadway Drive and Cotee Avenue.
Traffic flow had been changed from two-way on all roads to one-way on a portion of Bayview and Treadway. This current configuration directs motorists north on Bayview Street from Cotee Avenue and then east on Treadway Drive to Old Post Road in a clockwise pattern.
The recommendation that received unanimous approval Jan. 28 will flip things around and change the traffic flow to counterclockwise. Again, the only roads with one-way designations are Bayview and Treadway, but now motorists will get to destinations like Gill Dawg, Hooters or the Nicks Park Boat Ramp by turning westbound off Old Post. Exiting traffic would head southbound on Bayiew to Cotee. Bayview turns back to a two-way road south of Cotee, and Cotee and Old Post remain entirely two-way.
Tampa-based consulting and planning firm Tindale Oliver conducted the study. Robert Cursey, a Tindale Oliver principal, presented the planning and firm’s recommendation to council. Council voted 5-0 to support the counterclockwise option, which was one of five, and includes the no-change choice.
According to Cursey, reversing the traffic flow may benefit the area because it will better provide right of way for pedestrians and pedestrian infrastructure on Treadway and the east side of Bayview, provide an opportunity for creating a one-way pedestrian friendly gateway into the Waterfront Overlay District along Treadway and Old Post and potentially reduce concerns from local businesses regarding the existing traffic pattern.
As for the cons, going counterclockwise will require additional signs and the restriping of roadways and it will force vehicles traveling northbound on Bayview to turn right on Cotee and left on Old Post to access businesses on the north end of the area. The portions of the roads in question are about 400-500 feet in length.
The primary issue with going back to two-way traffic flows on all roadways, Cursey said, is safety. Most roads in the area are 15 to 18 feet wide from pavement to pavement.
“I still contend, just as I did two years ago, that under the two-way traffic pattern with your existing right of way … you’re going to have people walking in the street unless you take some kind of action,” Cursey said. “It was very prudent of council to take the action to go to one-way traffic because I think it did provide an opportunity to free up some of that pavement for pedestrians.”
Future growth is expected within the Waterfront Overlay District, which means more vehicle and pedestrian traffic and the potential for accidents.
Council’s Jan. 28 motion was to proceed with the counterclockwise change on Bayview and Treadway, but making the entire square one-way in the future was viewed favorably. Tindale Oliver’s Alternative 3 created the one-way square and the study states that it would further reduce confusion to motorists while providing greater pedestrian improvements.
Councilman Todd Maklary moved to adopt Alternative 2, with the understanding that it will eventually be extended to Alternative 3. Council decided, however, to narrow the scope and focus on taking one step at a time. Councilman William Dittmer expressed his desire to just go all in with the one-way square if that’s the eventual desire.
“If we’re going to do it, I would think we want to do it at one time,” Dittmer said. “As you saw, we changed the traffic pattern and it’s already been two months and we still have people going the wrong way on the roads. So the short term I don’t think is a real fix. I think to make it one way the whole way and we don’t have to change it again would be the way I would go.”
According to Cursey, Alternative 3 also highlighted one of the area’s primary traffic concerns: the three-way intersection at Cotee, Old Post and U.S. 19. Vehicles making the right turn from U.S. 19 often approach the nearby intersection at higher speeds, Cursey said. The best-case scenario may be eliminating the ability to turn onto Cotee from U.S. 19. Southbound U.S. 19 motorists can still enter the Waterfront Overlay District from either Grand Boulevard to the north or River Gulf Road to the south.
An additional concern that will be assessed is how the one-way alterations would affect, if at all, boaters bringing their vessels to the Nicks Park Boat Ramp.