The Alhambra Circle Complete Streets project that plans to bring bicycle lanes and shared-use sidewalks to Alhambra Circle south of Coral Way continues to move forward and continues to create discussion and divide for the future of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in Coral Gables.
TREES & BALLOTS
At the November 19th Transportation Advisory Board meeting, the city provided the board and residents in attendance an update on the project. Specifically, the concern about the signature heritage trees along the historic corridor was brought up along with the number of residents that will be sent out a ‘polling ballot’.
Assistant Public Works Director for the Sustainable Public Infrastructure Division, Jessica Keller, told the board the city was going to do the best they could to avoid damaging any of the existing trees. However, Keller added that a few trees have been identified as ‘sick’ during the recent site walkthrough. Residents opposed to the project questioned which trees were sick and demanded more information.
Keller sent out an email this morning with an update along with information of how her team will handle protecting the canopy as much as possible. The provided diagram includes adding a concrete path over the tree roots. Residents argue that any disturbance will cause the tree to suffer and weaken the trees.
At the same Transportation Meeting, residents questioned the Transportation Advisory Board and staff why over 1,000 ballots were being sent to nearby residents off Alhambra Circle when only approximately 174 homes are directly impacted. Those opposed to the project claim this is staff’s way of diluting the voices of those directly affected and allowing others to dictate what happens in their front-yard. There was no immediate response given to the residents on that point.
POLITICAL PRESSURE STARTS TO BOIL
At the November 12th City Commission meeting, Mayor Raul Valdes-Fauli made a statement saying he’s against forcing people to have sidewalks.
Local non-profit group and stakeholder of the 2014 Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, Bike Walk Coral Gables took issue with his statement, posting the clip online and asking for advocates to contact the city commission.
The item will be taken up at the December 10th commission meeting, including a personal appearance by an Alhambra Circle resident, Silvia Pinera-Vasquez.
The Alhambra Complete Streets Project follows a failed attempt for a bike lane on Riviera Drive, South of US-1 along with a bike lane along University Drive leading into the downtown business district known as the Gables Greenway project.
At the time, the commission unanimously voted in favor of the residents on Riviera that were opposed to bike lanes on their street.
However, it was brought up at the Transportation Advisory Board meeting by board member Deborah Swain, former member of Bike Walk Coral Gables, that she believes the commission made a mistake with Riviera Drive and that it should be brought back for reconsideration.
The commission will have to ultimately decide if Alhambra Circle merits the same consideration that was given to the Riviera Drive residents. Proponents believe the City should follow the approved master plan and include all streets including Riviera Drive between US-1 and Lejune Road with the proper process.