NEW PORT RICHEY — As part of a long-range plan to blend an enlarged Sims Park and the Orange Lake area, New Port Richey City Council members expressed preferences Tuesday night for a proposal to close sections of Grand and Circle boulevards.
The plan also would return two-way traffic to the remainder of Circle Boulevard, with one-way traffic at present.
No final decisions were made since council members were meeting in a work session. They simply reviewed some five options for rerouting traffic. A top goal would be to protect children at a relocated playground.
City staff had sought direction from council so traffic plans can be firmed up. The elected leaders agreed in principle to close a section of Grand Boulevard, at least from Sims Lane to Bank Street.
Mayor Rob Marlowe at first said he favored the simplest option to widen Sims Lane to help replace the closed section of Grand Boulevard. Sims would provide access to Circle Boulevard and Bank Street that would remain much the same as now.
Councilman Jeff Starkey, however, objected over safety reasons. Circle Boulevard and Bank Street would bisect the park and lake areas, posing hazards to pedestrians.
Vehicles would be zipping past the playground relocated to the north end of Sims Park where Grand Boulevard now forms the northern boundary for the park, Starkey reasoned. The whole point, Starkey argued, was to get the playground away from traffic. The Super Playground currently fronts Main Street.
Starkey preferred the option that closes a longer section of Grand Boulevard from Sims Lane to about a block east of Bank. The same option closes Circle from Sims Lane south to present-day Grand. Bank Street would become a cul-de-sac that dead ends where it now forms a T-intersection with Grand Boulevard.
That traffic plan would unite the park and lake areas, Starkey said. Park visitors could worry less about traffic.
The rerouting plan would require amendments to provide better access for the recently opened business incubator at 6345 Grand Blvd. The proposal right now would close that section of Grand .
Other options might encourage drivers to travel east on Indiana Avenue and south on Washington Street to continue toward downtown as a kind of park bypass.
“People go the fastest way,” consultant Elizabeth Rodriguez told council members.