BY MARK SCHUMANN
Editor’s note: The issue of what to do about the Twin Pairs downtown is not a new issue. The following Inside Vero editorial by Mark Schumann from 2013 shows that the only action taken since then is, well, inaction.
Employing what he asserted was common sense, Press Journal columnist Russ Lemmon suggested this weekend the best way to resolve the Twin Pairs issues would be to hold a straw poll. A straw poll? All arguments melt before the searing heat of such fiery logic.
Along with editorial writers for both the Press Journal and the island weekly, Lemmon seems not to appreciate the importance to the larger community of building a vibrant downtown area.
The vast majority of drivers who pass through downtown on the Twin Pairs do not live or work in downtown, nor do they have business interests there. If it is logical to submit the Twin Pairs decision to a straw poll of the drivers who use those two roads, then why not also ask those same drivers if they would prefer replacing the traffic lights at 20th Avenue and 14th Avenue with stop signs facing north and south?
For east-west traffic, doing away with the signals at those intersections would speed things up; and since there are more cars traveling east and west on those roads, the majority should rule. Hardly!
Speed is not the paramount objective. Traffic lights were put in service where 14th Avenue and 20th Avenue intersect the Twin Pairs because the priority for planners and traffic engineers is not simply to enable drivers to race through downtown as quickly as possible. In the same way, the fact that the Twin Paris traffic calming measures would add all of 30 seconds to the average drive through downtown should not be the only consideration.
Even if it could be shown that efforts to solve the problems created by the Twin Pairs are not supported by the majority of drives using those roads, that would hardly make a compelling argument for not balancing the interests of drivers with those of the people who live, work, shop and have businesses in downtown. Quite simply, those in the minority have rights, too.
Vero Beach does not need a seven-lane superhighway speeding traffic through downtown, often at rates of more than 50 miles per hour, essentially dividing downtown. In their current configuration, the Twin Pairs have been a detriment to downtown, and it is time the City Council finally act to solve the problem created when the Twin Pairs were built to solve another problem that no longer existed. It’s a long story, and the prevailing logic has been convoluted, at best. It is time to move forward with a well-considered solution to the Twin Pairs problem.
At its meeting tomorrow evening the City Council will consider a plan, approved by the Planning & Zoning Board by a vote of 4-1, to narrow the Twin Pairs to two lanes in each direction. Anyone interested in encouraging the Council to finally take decisive action on this issue would be well advised to attend tomorrow evening’s Council meeting, set to begin at 6 p.m.
Endnote: For those not familiar with the Twin Pairs’ origins, at one time in early 1970s, I-95 ended at the Vero Beach exit and then restarted at the Ft. Pierce/Hwy 70 interchange. That forced traffic to take SR60 through downtown to US 1, then drive south to the turnpike feeder road in order to reach the Hwy 70 interchange. Traffic through downtown Vero was always a mess. The State Legislature acted by creating what was to become the Twin Pairs. But they did not install it until years after I-95 was completed and downtown traffic no longer an issue.
So why build it then? By 1995, downtown Vero was practically a ghost town so few people objected to a highway bypass going through the heart of our city. Since then however, Bob Brackett and others began restoring downtown buildings in the hope of recreating the vibrant downtown that once existed. Their efforts have paid off with numerous restaurants, art galleries and other small, local businesses as well as the county courthouse. The only problem restricting a bright future for downtown is the Twin Pairs, that acts as an asphalt “Berlin Wall” of sorts, dividing the city in half.