Growing pains causing traffic headaches for locals, tourists

Residents frustrated as drivers struggle to find parking in historic district

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – St. Augustine is attracting more people than ever, but as the tourist season kicks into high gear, those people are often getting stuck in traffic as they hunt for a place to park.

Residents in the historic district are more frustrated than ever as St. Augustine experiences growing pains that affect everyone who lives or visits there.

"This town wants more and more tourists, and we residents are suffering,” historic area homeowner Elisa Nevel said.

Nevel said she has numerous complaints, but one of the biggest is that the amount of traffic has tripled since she moved here.

"It has become so congested that I really, after six years with this beautiful spot that I live in, I am considering moving,” she said.

Mike Lamartina, who was visiting St. Johns County from St. Louis, Missouri, said he loves the area but hates trying to find parking.

"This time it took us about 20 minutes to find a spot,” he said Tuesday. “We had to loop around a few times and finally came across one down the way here, but it's always a struggle."

Nevel said her driveway gets blocked all the time by people looking for a place to stop. She's taken her concerns to the local government, but to no avail, she said.

But Mayor Nancy Shaver said the city is listening.

"We are doing things,” Shaver said. “Do I think we're communicating as well as we need to? No. That was, actually, we reviewed our mobility work at the commission meeting Monday night and that was a big fallout, that we're not really telling people what we're doing and what they're getting.”

Shaver said the city has improved the timing of signals, started shuttling people for big events and is working on creating residential parking zones.

She also said she knows how frustrating it is for residents.

"But it's also our economy,” Shaver said. “It's what gives us our jobs. We're a hospitality city."

Shaver said the city has discovered that a lot of the congestion is caused by people just driving around trying to find a parking spot, even though there are plenty of them.

She said the city's large parking garage holds 1,200 cars and is only full 8 percent of the time.

The city is working on improving the signage so drivers know where the open spots are.

For more on what the city is doing and what residents have to say about it, check out the citizen survey on the city of St. Augustine website.

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