Air quality testing showed that emission levels are within state and national standards, but noise level are nearing the state maximum.
Florida Park Drive is an odd road: It's used as a collector road, but was designed for residential traffic and is lined by homes. That close contact between residents and commuters who use the street as a cut-through has led to resident complaints about traffic noise, emissions and speeding, and to a City Council effort to ameliorate the most disruptive effects of the traffic.
Now, the city is starting to form a plan. The City Council, at a workshop Oct. 29, considered three strategies: Redirecting heavy trucks away from the street; adding landscaping that would serve as a buffer against the noise; and, when the city next conducts roadway resurfacing, adjusting the striping so that the lanes appears narrower — a tactic that tends to cause drivers to slow down.
Council members expressed interest in blending those approaches.
"We’ve been discussing Florida Park Drive for a long time now, and to have three very solid options for transforming a roadway that has been a hassle to our residents is important," Mayor Milissa Holland, said, attending the workshop remotely through a teleconferencing system. "I'm very much in favor of this; I think it’s a comprehensive approach. It’s not going to be a perfect solution. We inherited this road from ITT … and it is one that requires our attention."
The city has already taken some action on Florida Park Drive, adding extra speed limit signs and a sign stating that the speed limit is radar enforced.
It has also added "no truck" signs for trucks over 4 tons, and has studied the road's air quality and noise levels to determine whether the street is violating any health standards.
Air quality fine; noise an issue
Vehicle emissions have featured heavily in the concerns of residents who've pressed the city to improve the road. But when the city placed an air quality monitoring station at Holland Park and tested the air, the air quality was well within state and national standards.
Over the month of August, the city tested for carbon monoxide and for contaminants in two size ranges — about 10 micrometers, which would include fungus, pollen and mold; and 2.5 micrometers, which would include partially combusted gases.
The carbon monoxide levels on the street were so low that they barely registered on a city line graph, appearing as a slightly bumpy flat line running along the 0-parts-per-million mark. The acceptable national standard level is considered to be a maximum of about 9 ppm over eight hours, or 35 ppm within one hour.
The 10-micrometer particulates, measured in micrograms per cubic meter of air, were present in concentrations with a high of just under 20 and an average of about 10. The acceptable maximum is 150.
For the partially combusted gases, the city found levels ranging from just above zero to slightly over 15 micrograms per cubic meter of air. The level considered acceptable is 35.
"So, there's no problem with air pollution," City Councilman Eddie Branquinho said after city consultant R. Sans Lassiter, president of the Lassiter Transportation Group, presented the data to council members.
"The air pollution’s so far below the standards that it really should be less of a concern; my bigger concern is the noise," Lassiter said.
The city's noise testing had detected levels approaching the maximum noise level standard set by the Florida Department of Transportation. The FDOT maximum is 66 decibels, and the city had measured a maximum level of 64.3. Human speech from 3 feet away is about 65 dB. The noise level was measured outside, near the roadway.
The city also measured the number of vehicles traversing the road from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. and categorized them by type, finding that the heavy trucks — like large flatbeds, box trucks and dump trucks — made up about 1.7% of the traffic, and light trucks (such as moving trucks, or pickup trucks hauling trailers) made up another 2.2%.
Time for an ordinance — and more trees?
Deterring non-necessary truck traffic from Florida Park Drive may require more than signs: It might take working with local businesses to ask them to direct their commercial drivers to use other routes, and it might require drafting an ordinance that would give local deputies the power to ticket violators, Lassiter said.
The city is planning to hold discussions with area business owners in November.
City staff members have been working on a draft copy of an ordinance to present to the Sheriff's Office for review. It would then go before the City Council.
To buffer residents from the traffic noise that's unavoidable, the city might also look at landscaping changes.
For that, the city has a number of options: It could assign a city staff member to help Florida Park Drive residents design landscaping that would help block sound, and potentially set aside grant money to help the residents purchase plants; or, for $125,000 to $600,000, it could redesign portions of the roadway near canal ends and intersections to incorporate sound-absorbing landscaping features such as vegetated medians or roundabouts.
Restriping in order to make the lanes appear narrower, if the city decides to do so, would likely happen in approximately five years, when the city is due to resurface the road, Construction Manager Carl Cote said.