VENICE — It’s not Laurel Road instead of the Pinebrook Road/East Venice Avenue intersection. It’s Laurel Road and the intersection.
That’s how Venice City Council Member Mitzie Fiedler explained her intent in proposing Tuesday to “abort” city funding of the intersection and ask the county to use the money to improve Laurel Road.
“We now have better information today than we did in 2012,” she said.
That was when the City Council committed $1.8 million to improvements at Pinebrook Road’s intersections with Ridgewood and East Venice avenues. It later added $500,000 more.
Council Member Chuck Newsom said that when the Planning Commission was revising the comprehensive plan the intersection had more EMS calls than any other in the city.
“We have committed to the citizens that we are going to fix this intersection,” he said.
But the county now says it can redo the intersection for $2.3 million in a way that will last until 2040 and it’s pursuing state money for a design and engineering study that could qualify the work for federal funds.
Fiedler said she wants to keep the city’s commitment in place but as a cap on its contribution.
It could be the case that none of the city’s money would be needed, she said. If not, then all of the $6.2 million in mobility and road impact fees currently budgeted for the work could be spent elsewhere — such as on Laurel Road.
If the city does in fact have to contribute monetarily to the work, the remaining fees could go to Laurel Road, she said.
A transportation analysis projects the road to deteriorate to level of service “F” as development in North Venice continues, she said. It might be a higher priority than the intersection if the projects were evaluated together today, she said.
Her proposal got a cool reception from her colleagues, though not because there’s any disagreement about the need for either project.
Council Member Jeanette Gates was one of several who said that city staff needs to weigh on the idea.
“I don’t have the time frames, I don’t have the numbers I need to vote on,” she said.
Mayor John Holic added that the city would need a firm commitment from the county that its obligation wouldn’t exceed $2.3 million.
“This has to be something strong that future Councils can rely on,” he said, perhaps a resolution from the County Commission.
Vice Mayor Rich Cautero called Laurel Road a “red flag” and a “cliff we’re heading straight into.”
“All the scenarios point to a failing Laurel Road,” he said.
But, he said, he thinks it may be possible to do both projects.
So does Council Member Bob Daniels, who expressed concern about voting to reallocate mobility and road impact fees, which are actually county funds, without involving the county, the Metropolitan Planning Organization of the state Department of Transportation.
“We need to start by calling timeout on this,” he said.
The city needs to maintain good relations with those other entities, he said, or it could jeopardize millions in funding.
It could be, after further review, Holic said, that the city might decide another road would be an even higher priority — say, for evacuation — than Laurel Road, an east-west route that “is really a road that goes nowhere,” he said.
Fiedler’s proposal was voted down 6-1 but can be brought back up again.