All Aboard Florida Recommending Closing key part of Confusion Corner in downtown Stuart

Publish Date: 
Wednesday, August 6, 2014 - 8:15am

By Arnie Rosenberg Aug 5, 2014 TC Palm

Part of a key downtown intersection could be shut down, making Confusion Corner even more confusing. The left-turn lane from northbound Colorado Avenue to Dixie Highway — just south of the railroad tracks and Confusion Corner — could be permanently closed once construction begins on All Aboard Florida’s second track through downtown, Vinay Mudholkar, All Aboard Florida vice president for infrastructure, told City Manager Paul Nicoletti in a letter Monday.

The closing was recommended by an engineering team comprising All Aboard Florida and federal, state and city representatives “to improve the safety of motorists” at the “particularly complex crossing,” Mudholkar wrote.

But the idea of closing looked like a hot potato Tuesday.

“All Aboard Florida will adhere to all applicable ... guidelines and regulations, including satisfying the safety recommendations of the diagnostic team,” Mudholkar said in his letter.

A “significant portion” of the left-turn lane is within the railroad right of way, All Aboard Florida confirmed, but the city can make changes with All Aboard Florida’s approval.

But if the intersection was rebuilt, placing the turn lane outside the right of way, the city could keep control of what happens there.

“If it’s in the road right of way it’s ours, but if it’s in the railroad right of way it’s going to be theirs,” Nicoletti said. “Even so, maybe we’ll be able to pull the radius back and reconfigure the intersection. If we start further back on Colorado, we could reconfigure it to provide a left turn.”

Still, Nicoletti cautioned, “The city has not made a determination to keep it open. We prefer to keep it open if we can do it safely.”

Closing that left turn could mean more backups on South Colorado Avenue when a train is coming through downtown — because traffic doesn’t have the option of turning left onto Dixie Highway — and more traffic forced into the Confusion Corner traffic circle, because vehicles would enter the roundabout and drive around the circle to get to northwest-bound Dixie.

“It is important for your city and the public to understand that (the Florida Department of Transportation) is mandating that All Aboard Florida meet the highest standards of safety, therefore our company will gladly adhere to the specific recommendations of the diagnostic team as safety is our No. 1 priority as well,” Mudholkar wrote.

In its statement Tuesday, All Aboard Florida said any decision about the roadway — changes, no changes, upgrades — “is a coordinated effort with FDOT, the local authority and the railroad.”

Recommendations of the engineering team, the statement said, “have yet to be incorporated into our plans. As we move forward, All Aboard Florida will be meeting with the city to further develop these plans and determine the appropriate implementation of the diagnostic team’s specific recommendations.”

Mudholkar’s letter also addressed several other questions Nicoletti had posed to All Aboard Florida:

Railroad construction likely will not take out any downtown parking spots. The city leases railroad right of way for 108 parking places.
No grade crossings in Stuart will be closed: “The final decision to close any crossings will be solely at the discretion of the city of Stuart.”
The single track approaching the St. Lucie River bridge will extend to about 1,000 feet south of the bridge to about 1,800 feet north of the bridge, north of the Fern Street intersection.