Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Metro Extension: cycling/walking interest groups want light now

 Metro Extension critics keep up the pressure--Cycling/walking interest groups want light now 

Oct. 31, 2012, by Dennis Culver

 It’s been 11 days since the opening of the Metro Parkway Extension in south Fort Myers, and area residents are continuing to clamor for traffic signals at the Briarcliff Road intersection.

The extension opened Oct. 21. Fifty-six-year-old David Vanaman was critically injured in a crash at the intersection the following day. There was another crash at the intersection Oct. 24, but there were no injuries.

The Florida Department of Transportation has plans to conduct a study at the intersection in December to determine if signals should be installed. A decision isn’t expected until February. Some community members are arguing FDOT should forgo the study and install the signals as soon as possible.

Bert Hamilton, the former chairman of the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee and an avid cyclist, said the intersection is particularly dangerous to pedestrians and bicyclists, because they have to cross the extension’s six lanes of traffic.

“They totally ignored everything but the cars,” he said. “There has been a gross oversight, and I really don’t see why.”

Bike lanes on the extension and a shared-use path are being constructed, but Hamilton said accessing the path and crossing the extension is causing safety concerns.

“They forgot the most important part, which is to give the people who live there access to them,” Hamilton said. “It’s obvious they have blocked anyone who wants to get across the street.”
Debbie Tower, FDOT spokeswoman, said the study, which follows federal criteria, will look at side street traffic going through the intersection, the ease of left turns at the intersection and traffic delays.

There is already equipment for the signals installed underground at the intersection. Tower said FDOT will start collecting data as soon as the project is finished.

“That truly is moving as quickly as we can,” she said. “We have to study the intersection, because we don’t know.”

Darla Letourneau, with BikeWalkLee, a community group geared toward raising public awareness about safe travel on the streets in Lee County, sent a letter to FDOT Monday asking the department to skip the study.

Letourneau said she spent about 20 minutes at the intersection Saturday to get a feel for the traffic flow. She estimated 80 percent of the vehicles traveling east on Briarcliff remained on the road and crossed six lanes of traffic to make it to the other side.

“I was nervous trying to get across in my car,” she said, adding many cars on the extension speed through the intersection. “It’s like being on I-75, and there is nothing slowing you down.”

Hamilton said he was trying to get signals included in the project in 2009. He said FDOT and Lee DOT said they were going to work out a way for pedestrians and bicyclists to cross. He said it’s common sense to put signals at the intersection and last week’s crash should be enough to show they are needed immediately.

“They hadn’t had it open a day, and there is a man in the hospital in a coma,” he said.


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