FDOT Mid-Beach Safety Project Concerns Residents

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

FDOT Mid-Beach Safety Project Concerns Residents:

Enforcement is the real issue, they say

Nearly 50 Mid-Beach residents viewed the proposed safety enhancements for Collins Avenue from the 4700 to 5800 blocks but many left frustrated by the process and with concerns that the project does not address the real safety issue – speed and other enforcement.
 
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) plans to “condense” the number of traffic signals, modify access to and from the frontage road, and allow u-turns from the northbound left lanes of Collins Avenue. At the same, FDOT will work with the City of Miami Beach to install new water mains and drainage including a new pump station at the 5300 block to minimize the disruption of having to replace those systems through another construction project in the future.
 
The project is estimated to cost $17.4m: $4.9m in roadway safety enhancements, $5m for new drainage, and $7.5m for water mains. Construction is projected to begin in April 2023 and take approximately two years to complete.
 
Collins Avenue between 4700 and 5800 is a six-lane divided roadway with a frontage road servicing the buildings on the west side.
 
Carlos Francis, FDOT’s safety consultant said the area was identified in 2014 as a “high crash segment”, meaning it experienced an “abnormally high” number of accidents. A study of the area indicated crashes were happening as a result of northbound vehicles hitting others making u-turns from the service road, vehicles entering and exiting the frontage road improperly, and rear-end collisions due to general congestion experienced in the area now.
 
From 2006-2015, Francis said there were 809 documented crashes in the area, an average of 81 per year. FDOT anticipates the proposed enhancements will reduce yearly crashes by about 17 or 20%.
 
The proposal to reduce the number of signals and relocating crosswalks and bus stops created the biggest angst among the participants in the public hearing. Specifically, the plan calls for:
  • 4900 signal to remain as is
  • Signals at 5000 and 5200 would be replaced by one at 5100
  • Signal at 5300 to become a pedestrian crossing signal only
  • Signal at 5330 would remain as is
  • Signal at 5445 would be eliminated
  • Signal at 5500 would remain as is
  • Signal at 5600 would be relocated to 5700 as a pedestrian crossing only
  • Crosswalk at 5875 would move slightly north
Because the traffic survey “observed speeds higher than posted”, Francis said FDOT plans to install speed feedback signs in both directions.
 
When the presentation was finished, FDOT staff stated the rules for the public hearing: Comments only would be accepted. Questions would be addressed separately with FDOT engineers after the public hearing. Residents became frustrated when they didn’t feel they had enough information to comment on, seeking to clarify details with questions. Whenever a question was asked, the FDOT team indicated they would be answered after the public comment period.  Several attendees left the meeting. One participant objected publicly, “What a joke,” he commented.
 
Anamarie Ferreira de Melo, Mid-Beach Neighborhood Association (MBNA) president, urged FDOT to change its public hearing guidelines to allow for “more authentic communication and co-design” noting she was “really uncomfortable” that FDOT would only answer questions after the public hearing, meaning they would not be captured “on the record” by the court reporter taking notes.
 
As to the proposed design, she said MBNA is looking to increase the ability for pedestrians to cross the street. “Taking away crosswalks is not something we are open to,” she said referring to the reduced number of signalized intersections. She said she was looking for pedestrian and bicycle accommodations as prioritized in the City’s transportation master plan.
 
Many who commented noted the accident scenarios presented by FDOT were caused by traffic violations and rather than making changes to the roadway, the emphasis should be on enforcement.
 
Marty Epstein, president of the Board at the Carriage Club North Condominium at 5005 Collins, said the area needed “two police cars” to deter the “Lamborghinis and Ferraris that drive 90 mph down Collins”, adding speed sensors will be ineffective for cars driving at a high rate of speed. Predicting senior citizen pedestrians will not walk further to get to a crosswalk, “You’re not going to have t-bones, you’re going to have cadavers on Collins Avenue," he said.
 
Nancy De Masi agreed the emphasis should be on the high speeds, likening the street to the Daytona 500. “The speed is outrageous,” she said. “The real causes of those accidents is speed.”
 
“If you’re talking safety [with this plan], you missed the mark,” De Masi told the FDOT team.
 
Melinda Pierce added “Taking away lights so people can go faster down Collins Ave, that’s not making it safer.”
 
Resident Alice Pascal summed it up. “If you enforce the traffic laws, you can save millions of dollars.”
 
Alicia Gonzalez, a Community Outreach Specialist working with FDOT, assured the residents they would share all enforcement issues with the appropriate agencies. “It’s not in our purview, but we don’t ignore it. We record it and we fully expect the agencies to respond.”­

The formal comment period is open for another ten days. You may email comments to FDOT Project Manager Ana Arvelo.
 
Once the comment period closes, FDOT will review the feedback before moving on to design. FDOT expects plans to be completed by August 2019.
 
View the project information sheet 

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