The Marathon City Council wants to hear straight from the source why a traffic light could not be installed at the intersection of Aviation Boulevard and U.S. 1. After hearing the findings of a traffic study conducted by Jacobs Engineering at the council’s regularly scheduled meeting on May 26, Mayor Mike Cinque suggested the city should seek input from local residents about the dangerous intersection.
Diana Jones, owner of the Ranch House Motel across the highway, told the council that eliminating left turns off of Aviation onto U.S. 1 would do little to alleviate congestion.
“If you make it right turn only, where will the turnaround lane be?” Jones asked. “We need to have something done at that intersection,” adding that she would host traffic engineers and FDOT authorities at her motel in the morning for coffee and doughnuts to see first-hand the number of drivers trying to negotiate the precarious left-hand turns onto the highway.
Marathon Police Chief Chad Scibilia said he had listened to the presentation and was disappointed FDOT did not feel the installation of a traffic light was a feasible option. He said he would be in support of creating a left turn only lane at the end of Aviation.
Councilwoman Ginger Snead said she has taken a particularly greater interest in alleviating congestion and making the intersection safer since she now resides behind the airport. Snead said though Carl Peterson of Jacobs Engineering, the firm that conducted the study, said it would be a challenge for DOT to approve installation of a traffic light, she thought the council should continue to pursue the issue.
“What about putting in a left turn lane and continuing to fight for a light?” Snead suggested.
As the council’s appointed liaison between the city and the DOT at their monthly meetings, she added that council as well as the residents needed to “keep pushing.” She referred to the long-time effort by residents in the Lower Keys to have a traffic signal installed in front of Sugarloaf School.
Councilman Dick Ramsay said he was also in favor of a light and suggested a representative from the DOT should be invited to the council’s next meeting on June 23 to explain exactly why the volume of traffic would not warrant a light.
Mayor Cinque said after reading the traffic study findings, he referred to the installation of a traffic signal at Coco Plum Drive and US 1 that came only after a fatality.
“That was a tragic example of the way government works,” Cinque said. “We need a plan to move forward.”
In other business:
– Councilman Ramsay reported on major decisions being made at the Marathon Airport.
He told the council that representatives from U.S. Customs and Immigration have been exploring the option of putting an office either at the airport terminal or working in conjunction with the Sheriff’s office. He added that with the Greater Marathon Chamber of Commerce’s efforts to market the city as a boating destination, a customs office would be an asset to the community.
“We’ve got some work to do, but it’s moving along well,” he explained.
The outlook appeared a bit grimmer regarding the relationship between the city and the county regarding the facility’s expansion. He explained that major conversations about extending the runway on the east and west end would negatively impact residents in the neighborhoods surrounding the airport.
“Noise abatement studies have been conducted,” he said. “This is going to be very drastic and there will be negative affects to houses on both ends of the airport.”
After receiving the news that a proposed interlocal agreement between Marathon and Monroe County would likely be turned down at the Board of County Commissioner’s next meeting on June 17, Ramsay proposed hiring an aviation attorney.
“This issue needs to be put to bed and we need to establish a relationship with the county to protect the interest of our citizens,” Ramsay said. “I personally believe we stand on very solid legal ground.”
Councilman Pete Worthington suggested the city not take an adversarial position with the county until concrete decisions regarding runway extension were presented, and Ramsay said plans were already in the works.
“The master plan has already been established and it has been submitted to the FAA,” he affirmed.
– The council unanimously authorized City Manager Clyde Burnett to move forward with a $30 million loan agreement from Regions Bank for wastewater and storm water construction.
– The Council recognized Lourdes Dick for her honor as being chosen Teacher of the Year by her fellow educators.
The corner of Aviation Blvd and US 1 is a frustrating and often dangerous intersection. The City Council is currently mulling ideas to alleviate the left hand turn issue which will only become increasingly dangerous once the Sea Grape complex opens.