By Duwayne Escobedo…
For the second time since July 2010, Pensacola Christian College asked for Escambia County to close Rawson Lane that borders its east side to enhance its student safety and to expand the college.
PCC argues the county should close the street that connects Brent Lane and Airport Boulevard used by Norwood and Hancock neighborhood residents and as a shortcut by other drivers.
Escambia County Board of County Commissioners held a public workshop Tuesday at Brentwood Elementary School where the cafeteria was open from 5:30-7 p.m. Hundreds of residents from the area attended the meeting that had various stations set up to explain the $26,350 study by EPR.
One station had a video to show how closing Rawson from Eusebia Street to Brent Lane and closing the whole stretch from Airport to Brent would affect traffic. There were also graphics with traffic data set up where EPR employees helped residents understand the impacts. Other tables had the 266-page study that people could read. Everyone was asked to fill out a survey that the five-member Escambia County Commission will take into account when it decides the issue at a public hearing scheduled for April 6.
Residents displayed strong feelings for and against the road closure. Traffic would be diverted to Palafox Street or to the Interstate-110 exit that runs between Airport and Brent.
Hilda Johnson, an 83-year-old retired elementary teacher, moved into the Norwood neighborhood in 1976 or 40 years ago.
“It’s absurd that this is constantly studied,” she said. “I oppose (closure) because it’s going to cause inconveniences for people in our neighborhood.”
The 55-year-old Randall Whitehead, who grew up on Rawson Lane, also is against the street closing. He uses the road all the time and said closing the road would make it hard to get in and out of his home. Plus, he has another reason.
“I hate PCC and you can print that, I don’t care,” he said.
But Gary Mitchell, who works for construction consulting company, BE-CI, said the closure of Rawson Lane is needed for public safety reasons and to allow PCC to expand.
“It’s like dodge ball down there,” Mitchell said. “It’s just a monster to get through there.”
County staff said it shared a draft report with the college before posting it online for the public prior to Tuesday’s workshop.
District 3 County Commissioner Lumon May said PCC getting the study earlier than everyone else “disappointed” him.
“My special interest is the citizens of Escambia County,” May said. “I’ve never voted against the public interest of the citizens.”
Residents who missed Tuesday’s workshop can view the study and traffic research on the Escambia County website. They also can take a survey until March 1 on whether they support or oppose the closure and make a comment.