The debate continues over Lakeside Village Center. Currently, there are two ongoing discussions regarding roads. These include the closure of one and the placement of another. I feel, however, that the biggest hurdle to cross with our roadways here is even bigger than these. It will be making the zone between the current Reams Road and Chase Road a village-like zone. One must look at Lakeside Village within its context to determine the relevance of the debate.

Simply put County Road 535, also known as Winter Garden–Vineland Road, is a four-lane highway with wide smooth lanes, large empty shoulders, and, for the most part, no curbs.  One portion through Lakeside Village even includes elevated acceleration banks (high bank on the outside portion of the turn to accommodate speed). Drivers feel comfortable at a high rate of speed because the road was incorrectly designed for that purpose.

The portion of 535 between Reams Road and Chase Road must be treated differently in order for this to be our village center. We already have a massive fail just north of the village center. Sunset Park Elementary, our neighborhood school, was constructed on the east side of 535, and 1000+ homes are on the west side. The school’s geographical proximity makes it ideal for parents to walk their children and for kids to ride bikes to and from school.  However, to do so means crossing several lanes of highway during busy mornings. And did I mention that the speed limit on this portion is 55 mph?!  Obviously, this has created huge safety concerns (for most reasonable people).

Currently, and I’m afraid permanently, 535 and its wide traffic lanes, turning lanes and median, bisect our “village” making any efforts at creating shopping and village amenities accessible by foot futile.

Sure county officials can change the speed limit by posting new speed limit signs (slower than the current 55 mph).  Will this be most effective?  No, the Sheriff’s Office and Highway Patrol will benefit the most just as they do a little further north at Windermere Preparatory School and 535 where again the road is wide open but the speed limit is decreased because it is a school zone.

What can be done to improve this disconnect between traffic design and community? Suggestions include tapering the lanes to be narrower through this zone.  Drivers typically slow down through narrow lanes. Think wide open highway vs. County Road 17/U.S. 92 through Orlando and Winter Park.  This would be more effective at slowing the traffic than speed limit signs.

We were discussing this over brunch this morning and one suggestion was to move vegetation closer to the pavement edge. The simple addition of trees closer to the roadway creates the perceived need to slow down. This too would create a feeling of enclosure and of an area of demarcation that this zone is different.

What about pavement changes? Pavement with an increased texture causes drivers to reduce their speed. A few bands of texture change could indicate the driver’s entrance into a new zone as well as cause him/her to slow down. Think about streets constructed with cobblestone or pavers. These are effective at reducing speed.  This could be used in conjunction with other options.

As a friend put it, and I like this metaphor, streets and roads are the bones of our community. They are constructed first and rarely are modified. As a result, we may be stuck with 535 in its current state. Likewise, our “village center” may never have a center.

There are many benefits by implementing a slower traffic model for this zone.

  • Safety and increased pedestrian accessibility which after all, isn’t this one of the founding goals of Horizon West?
  • Reduction of noise which is great for local residents and for outdoor events on the village property (not that we got a green space in there though).
  • The creation of a village center.
  • More exposure for merchants through slower traffic.

County Road 535 is the elephant in the room, and no one is addressing it.

Author: Tory Parish

  • Anonymous

    Glad I found this blog…keep up the good work. I too have concerns about the new village being built. What is the purpose of building multi family homes close to shopping if you can’t walk to anything?!