ENGLEWOOD — Charlotte County commissioners will be asked to slow down traffic along Fruitland Avenue.
A public hearing, scheduled for 10 a.m. April 23, at the County Administration Center, proposes dropping the speed limit to 25 mph along the two-mile residential corridor. The dropping of the speed limit may turn out to be a first step to minimize traffic on Fruitland.
“Once the speed limit is lowered, we need to measure the effectiveness, and we’ll also work with (Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office) to request additional enforcement during peak times there,” Assistant County Administrator Travis S. Mortimer told the Sun.
According to residents living along Fruitland, the traffic problem has escalated since the county opened the Winchester Boulevard South corridor in 2005. They’ve even petitioned the county to closed it off from its intersection with Winchester.
The two-mile residential road has long been known as a shortcut in and out of Englewood East and Rotonda. The narrow residential street can see as many 2,000 or 3,000 or more vehicles traveling along Fruitland in a 24-hour period, according to various county traffic studies.
Motorists travel Fruitland as “back door” to State Road 776. The roadway links up Gulfstream Boulevard to Avenue of the Americas and busy San Casa Drive, as well as providing the most direct route from L.A. Ainger Middle and Vineland Elementary schools to Lemon Bay High. Fruitland also allows quick access from the Englewood East neighborhood to the dog parks, public pool and youth football fields at Ann Dever Regional Park on San Casa Drive.
Closing Fruitland from Winchester South, like resident Harry Farringer and his neighbors have petitioned the county for, may not be an answer.
“Traffic calming is supposed to address the problem where it is, not move the problem to another roadway,” Mortimer said, stressing the word “not.” “The desired effect of the calming measures will be to make Fruitland less enticing as a shortcut and encourage drivers to choose different routes.”
The issues and problems facing Fruitland and its residents, Mortimer suggested, include:
• The road has a very narrow right of way and houses are very close to the road.
• The road is the perfect shortcut for east-west connection of the area … and everyone knows it, so they use it.
• Traffic volumes are on the rise all over the county, but especially noticeable here because of the “relief valve” effect that the street offers to drivers.
• Residents cite the Winchester South project as being the cause of all this, because that road project closed other side streets and left Fruitland connected.
Farringer blames the county, claiming officials did not sufficiently consider potential impacts or traffic studies before opening the Winchester South corridor. He also feels county officials “keep ignoring the traffic volumes,” the real problem.