ENGLEWOOD — If it weren’t for the traffic, Fruitland Avenue would be just another quiet residential street in Englewood East.
But it’s not.
Instead, especially since 2015 with the opening of Winchester Boulevard South, the road has seen an increase in traffic as people use it as a short-cut into and out of the neighborhood. In fact, the number of cars that travel it has become comparable to collector roads like nearby Oceanspray Boulevard.
“They turned everything upside down here,” said Harry Farringer of Charlotte County. “Law enforcement cannot fix this.”
Spurred by this issue, Farringer will begin serving on the Englewood East Non-Urban Street and Drainage Unit Advisory Board. He says he’s joining the county’s volunteer advisory board so he and his neighbors can have a voice with county officials.
One of those neighbors is joining him. Catherine Beach, also a Fruitland Avenue resident, has been named to the advisory board as well.
Farringer and his wife, Bonnie, moved to Fruitland Avenue nearly six years ago and say they have seen traffic increase significantly. They also said motorists tend to speed along the road, which is designated at 30 mph, making it dangerous for them and their neighbors to check their mailboxes, much less walk or bicycle along Fruitland.
“A lady down the street lost six of her mailboxes (to motorists),” Farringer said.
The two-mile corridor has served for years as a “back door” alternate route to State Road 776 for local motorists, since it links up Gulfstream Boulevard to Avenue of the Americas and busy San Casa Drive. For instance, it provides the most direct route from L.A. Ainger Middle and Vineland Elementary schools to Lemon Bay High. It 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.
But it’s really been discovered since Winchester South opened three years ago.
“We’ve become a gateway for commercial traffic,” Farringer said. “Everytime there’s construction, they run through here. The road is starting to deteriorate due to heavy trucks.”
The Farringers and their neighbors asee school bus drivers using the road.
Public Works conducts traffic counts twice a year on Fruitland. Traffic counts in March last year revealed that more than 3,200 vehicles traveled along Fruitland in a 24-hour period. A second count in September determined more than 2,700 vehicles traveled along the road. County records show “minimal accidents” along the corridor.
According to the Institute of Transportation Engineering Journal, Farringer learned how a residential street with 1,200 vehicles in 24 hours would rank Fruitland as a “poor environment” for traffic.
“Traffic volume is the root of the whole problem,” he said.
Charlotte County expects to start installing in June a traffic signal at the Winchester Boulevard at the Avenue of the Americas-Fruitland Street intersection. The project should be completed by October.
The county did install a flashing speed sign that alerts motorists whether they are exceeding the 30 mph speed limit.
Public Works is also conducting a pilot study of speed bumps on a residential street on the other side of Charlotte County in the Deep Creek neighborhood. The results of that pilot study, which should be completed in April, will determine whether the county would consider speed bumps on Fruitland.
Those are not the answers for Fruitland, according to Farringer.
Farringer plans to recommend at the next advisory board meeting that Fruitland dead-end at Winchester South with an automatic gate that emergency vehicles could open and close. That would effectively make the road a dead end. The advisory board meets 9:30 a.m. Feb. 27 at the County Administration Center in Murdock.
A petition signed by 36 households of the 37 residential properties along the Fruitland corridor outlined what they’d want to see:
• A traffic study that acknowledges the thru-traffic increases.
• Remove or modify county restrictions that prevents most county roads to seek traffic calming if the speed limits are higher than 25 mph.
• Sidewalk construction to be included in the next fiscal year.
• Construct a minimum of three speed bumps immediately.
“What we have here is an abuse of land use,” Farringer said. “(The county) made this a collector road and have all the benefits of making this a collector road without investing a single penny to make this better.”