APOPKA, Fla. — University of Central Florida graduate students are hoping their recommendations can reduce crashes and congestion in downtown Apopka.
As a part of the Masters of Urban Planning at UCF, more than a dozen students studied downtown Apopka and the surrounding roads to figure out how to improve conditions for commuters, pedestrians and cyclists.
“We know here on this 8 block stretch of Highway 441 that over 23 people have been killed in the last 5 to 6 years, and that’s not acceptable,” said Logan Lamphere, one of the UCF graduate students.
Apopka is one of the fastest growing cities in Central Florida.
But for all of its growth, Lamphere says its downtown suffers from heavy traffic that makes it less inviting for residents and potential business owners.
“You had a very walkable area, now you have big loud trucks ripping through the heart of this town,” said Lamphere.
The UCF students, who graduated earlier this month, found it’s time to rethink the use of US-441, or Main Street as it’s called.
“It’s a paradigm shift,” said Lamphere, “people have to start reclaiming Main Street, Highway 441 as the heart of their downtown, and letting that through truck traffic go around on the 414 bypass.”
The UCF students have come up with a vision plan, hoping to dissuade through traffic from using the street, and instead make downtown Apopka a destination.
“We want people to feel just a little bit safer as they’re walking down 441,” said UCF Graduate Student Ashley Morisette.
They presented their findings to the Apopka city council last month, suggesting narrower lanes and extending median landscape islands.
“When you narrow lanes and get drivers to be closer together, if you ever thought how close you are next to me, that’s going to slow you down,” said Morisette.
Some of the recommendations are long term solutions, such as mid-block crossings to help prevent pedestrians from jaywalking.
“It is still doable as a four lane, but with narrower lanes, some of the turn lanes turned into medians, some mid-block crosswalks with rapid flashing beacons that would allow people to cross safely,” suggests Lamphere.
The city of Apopka plans to use the information next time FDOT plans to re-work this street.
The UCF group also proposed a marketing campaign, a housing development toolkit and installing pocket, or mini-parks.