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Shores asks state to kill sidewalk, widen bike lane

Photo: More than 100 concerned citizens packed last week’s Indian River Shores council meeting.

The Town of Indian River Shores has no official jurisdiction over a planned 6-foot-wide sidewalk on the east side of A1A through the town, but after more than 100 concerned citizens packed last week’s council meeting, the town will make the residents’ case with state officials.

When Shores officials, county commissioners and state legislators were inundated with correspondence about what a terrible idea the sidewalk was following a July 10 public workshop about the road project, Town Manager Robbie Stabe wrote Florida Department of Transportation consultant and project manager Donovan Pessoa on Aug. 13 to see what could be done to eliminate the sidewalk from construction planned in conjunction with scheduled road resurfacing.

Pessoa acknowledged he, too, had heard from a variety of people opposed to the project, from local residents to state elected officials.

Then last week, dozens of speakers at the Shores podium questioned what would happen to lush, established vegetation and community entrances integral to the Shores aesthetic along A1A if the sidewalk is put in place. A 6-foot-wide concrete sidewalk would mean ripping up the roadway and everything on the eastern right of way for many months or as long as a year, affecting traffic and the use of bike lanes.

Bermuda Bay resident Penny King, who is organizing the opposition to the sidewalk, said Saturday she felt her objections and those of her neighbors across the town were duly considered. “We could not have had a better outcome than the council’s deciding to contact FDOT,” King said. “This was a very vital step for us.”

In a letter to FDOT, Shores Mayor Tom Slater subsequently said:  “I cannot state more strongly the clear desire of the entire Town Council and the vast majority of Indian River Shores residents to not build the unneeded sidewalk, and the insistence to improve the safety for cyclists by adding the needed width to the bike lane.”

Slater said if the design change to eliminate the sidewalk and expand the bike lane from the current 4 feet to 6 or 7 feet requires a delay of a few years, “the council and residents are comfortable with the timing.”

The next step of the fight, King said, revolves around rallying state Sen. Debbie Mayfield and Rep. Erin Grall to put pressure on FDOT planners.

“Our plans going forward [are to] contact the rest of the HOA boards in Indian River Shores that we have not yet reached.  I believe we have reached 15 out of 30,” King said. “Getting John’s Island to agree that a sidewalk should not be built was very important.”

Then those HOAs, carrying the political weight of their members, will formally appeal to county and state leaders, as well as to FDOT District Secretary Gerry O’Reilly to show that virtually everyone who lives along the 6.74-mile affected stretch of A1A has zero interest in a sidewalk as part of the $7.5 million project.

“The more overwhelming the number of emails, letters and calls that our representatives can present to FDOT, the better our chances,” King said.