Sunday, December 02, 2018
RECORD EDITORIAL: City sits down with FDOT on Anastasia intersection.
Traffic lights cost about $130,000.
FDOT spends more on paper clips.
What's FDOT's imputed value of a human life?
Who makes these rules?
Do they have the force and effect of law?
We need more information to empower us to talk to our leaders.
Thanks to the Lighthouse Park Neighborhood Assn. and to Debbie Wicker, Carl Blow, John Depreter and Jim Tunstall for raising this issue.
Excellent editorial in the St. Augustine Record:
RECORD EDITORIAL: City sits down with FDOT on Anastasia intersection
Posted Dec 1, 2018 at 9:43 PM
Monday Jan. 21, 2013, this headline ran on the front page of The Record: “City wants deadly Anastasia Blvd. curve investigated.”
On Nov. 18, 2018, a front page story was headlined: “Call for change at troubled A1A/Red Cox Drive Intersection.”
Little has changed in the five years between the two stories. An increasing upsurge of community concern on Anastasia Island seems determined to ensure another five years doesn’t go by without some answer to the puzzle of Red Cox/A1A safety.
And we picked the word puzzle, because that’s the sticks & stones reality there. The intersection is a conundrum, a difficulty, a dilemma, a quandary, a threat and a danger. It’s a four-lane highway dividing neighborhoods, with meager means to cross it. It’s a curve that needs negotiating. It’s a backup of traffic.
And most everything with the likelihood of causing traffic sits on the east side of A1A — with the exception of the Alligator Farm. There’s a skate park, the Lighthouse and Museum, a fire department, a soccer field, an elementary school, offsite parking for Amphitheatre concerts, a surf shop, Sno Cone truck, Anastasia State Park and two vibrant Davis shores communities — straddling their only way on or off the island — Anastasia Boulevard. One way leads immediately to a backed up bridge, the other way ... to another bridge.
Let’s toss in the word “perplexity” for good measure.
On Wednesday, City Manager John Regan, Mobility Director Reuben Franklin and Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline have a sit-down with Florida Department of Transportation Secretary for our district, Greg Evans.
The FDOT has, for years, insisted a traffic light at the intersection isn’t warranted. That’s the single key word in this issue, and likely the single key point of contention or consideration in the meeting Wednesday.
The FDOT runs on a standard methodology when looking at traffic issues. And, in truth, its most basic transportation precept is moving traffic more efficiently, not holding it up — which traffic lights do.
But it certainly understands tipping points, and engineering efficiencies of moving traffic meeting at 45-degree angles. The FDOT, though, makes data-driven decisions and engineering-intensive solutions. When it adds up its numbers, the sum does not equal a traffic light on that curve.
What Regan and the city crew hope to impress upon Mr. Evans is the human side of this equation. There have been deaths there, one recently, three others back in 2013 when the initial push for a safer intersection began. However, the FDOT uses “preventable” accidents in its equations. The three fatality investigations in 2013 were all closed as caused by drugs or alcohol.
But, from where we sit, the issue isn’t what has happened there, but what’s waiting to happen, as trucks pulling 30-foot sportfishing boats make left-hand turns to get to the boat ramp or neighborhood kids try to cross the four lanes of traffic to get to elementary school. Then there’s the daily backups of parents dropping off their children in long lines each morning and picking them back up in the afternoon.
Many of these parents drive their kids to school because they won’t allow them to bike to school and cross the highway to get there.
Some cyclists try to cheat the puzzle by riding against traffic rather than with it. That’s against the law. It’s also dangerous for several reasons, but the main one is pure physics. The relative closure rate for a bicyclist traveling 15 mph and a motorist traveling 35 mph is the same direction is 20 mph. The rate is 50 mph in opposite directions.
From years of writing about the FDOT and local projects, we’ve found their people accessible and honest. It has bent over backwards to plan projects with local input rather than simply “do” them their way. The May Street intersection and the San Marco facelift are both good examples. St. Augustine’s unique 450-year-old mobility eccentricities must make FDOT higher-up draws straws to see who doesn’t have to do a project here. We appreciate that they do, and understand how efficiency can, and usually does, chafe against history.
The Red Cox Drive puzzle won’t get solved with data. We’d bet the FDOT understands that and takes the human side into account when seeking a solution to a small intersection affecting a big community in a bad way.