Residential neighborhoods present a number of challenges. In some cases, the folks that laid out New Port Richey’s street grid had different ideas from what actually came to be. The best example of that is Central Avenue, which was originally envisioned as being the business district. Obviously, it didn’t work out that way.
As a result of the way it was designed vs. the way it has come to be used, the street is far too wide. The easiest fix would be a median and on-street parking. You can see how this works between Adams and Circle. There is something to be said for asking the folks that live on Central between Adams and Madison if they would like to see a similar treatment in front of their homes. I’m pretty confident that it would slow down traffic.
The problem is not unique to Central. There are a number of streets, including Montana, Missouri, and Delaware that could benefit from going on a diet. Grand Blvd between Gulf Drive and Main Street is a special case that I’ll address in an upcoming NPR Note.
The picture on the right is of Delaware Avenue. You could easily park on one or both sides and STILL have plenty of room for traffic. This is crazy.
In my own neighborhood, North River Road is far wider than any rational road designer would make it today. In a general, it is 24′ wide or wider. Keeping in mind that a “normal” residential street traffic lane should be 10′ wide, or 20′ for the whole street, and you can see the problem. We have literally built our residential streets with traffic lanes the same width as those on Interstate highways. It is no wonder that we have a speeding problem in town. The Seattle Greenways folks wrote a good explanation of all this.
Another issue is that we’ve compounded the temptation to speed on these Interstate sized lanes by adding “racing stripes” right down the middle of the road! Somebody in Public Works decades ago must have gotten quite the deal on yellow line paint. We’ve removed those center lines on some roads and the effect has been to slow down traffic.
Overwide streets have a very real cost for neighborhoods. Other things, like wide sidewalks, don’t happen because there isn’t enough room. Narrow the streets to a normal residential width of 20′ and suddenly there is all sorts of room available for things like 4′ wide sidewalks.
Streets can be made to work. South River Road between Main and South Street isn’t that much narrower than North River Road, but it has curbs on one side that definitely slow you down if you have to pass someone coming from the other direction. (It also has speed humps, which are a bit of overkill. You don’t need speed humps or other fixes if the roads are built properly in the first place.)
We are already working on residential streets as part of our pavement management program. Perhaps we can right-size these streets and add sidewalks as we go. There is no reason that New Port Richey can’t be more pedestrian friendly.
For as long as I can remember, the city has put a lot of emphasis on the downtown. That is all well and good, but the neighborhoods need love too. Prior to the Great Recession, the city was working to fix up various neighborhoods. We got as far as having a visioning session with the residents of my neighborhood before the economy tanked. Over the last year or so, we’ve started working on neighborhoods again.
The renovations in the Jasmin Park are a good example of this. Improvements for other neighborhood parks are in the works as well.
The City Council is considering options for offering grants or low interest loans to help homeowners fix up their properties. We’ve had some of these in the past and I believe we should expand the programs. There are grants that the City can use to pay for these programs. The City is now receiving Community Development Block Grant dollars that can be used for rehabilitating residential properties. More information on CDBG funding can be found here.
General neighborhood improvements are slated for $350,000 in funding over the next five years. Neighborhood Street and Sidewalk Improvements are budgeted for over two million dollars over the next five years. Other line items in the five year plan will also benefit the residential neighborhoods.
We are having a work session on September 7th at 5pm to talk about the alleys. Some of them need some serious attention. We’ll attempt to balance the need for the alleys to be fully paved for garbage trucks and the like against the drainage issues that might result from paving them. Interestingly enough, a functional alley grid further reduces the need for oversized streets in front of houses.
The key take away is that we’ve got a handle on business side of things and it is now time to spend more time and money investing in our housing stock and residential neighborhoods.
Rob Marlowe, Mayor