The Florida Department of Transportation is moving ahead with a nearly 100-mile road project along Alligator Alley that is intended to save lives.
That’s the claim by some critics, who say the $18 million project will put thousands of lives in peril if they continue to press forward with the measure.
Traffic department officials say the purpose of the guardrails is to keep motorists from careening off the roadway and into the deep canals that line the sides of the Everglades.
But there’s a big problem, say the Florida State Highway Patrol representatives: There is not enough room to pull people over. They say the positioning of the guardrails do not allow for a trooper to safely stop a vehicle and get out of the vehicle to approach it.
On top of that, there is concern about response to accidents. For firefighters or tow truck drivers who are responding to an accident scene, there is little means for them to safely return to traffic. As it now stands, these workers can use the grassy area to turn around and get more safely back into traffic. They also use that area to get to an accident scene quickly if traffic is backed up. They will no longer be able to do that, authorities say.
One towing company operator was quoted by NBC-2 as saying that firstly, there will be more accidents because word will soon spread that officers aren’t able to stop reckless motorists for speeding and other infractions. And then on top of that, the response to those accidents is going to cause significant – and potentially life-threatening – delays. Those who use the east-west corridor across Florida every day can expect to see their risk of a car accident increase, he said.
“I don’t care to jeopardize my people with this safety infringement,” he said.
The company has penned a letter to FDOT, but there has yet been no response.
Truck drivers who use the stretch of highway frequently say they can’t understand the point of putting them in, calling it a “waste.”
Meanwhile, FDOT did issue a brief response to the news outlet, saying that while the agency is “sensitive to concerns,” it has a legitimate interest in keeping drivers out of the canal at the side of the highway. The water in that swampy body of water can reach up to 40-feet in depth.
There is evidence to suggest FDOT might be right. The Sun Sentinel reported in 2013 that the number of fatal canal crashes on Alligator Alley (which is a portion of I-75 and Florida’s Turnpike) fell dramatically after the installation of cable barriers.
Over the course of a decade, more than $100 million was spent to make the road safer. Before the barriers were installed, 14 people were killed in 56 canal crashes along Alligator Alley between 1995 and 1999.
But in looking at the same kind of crashes between 2007 and 2011, only two canal crashes reportedly occurred.
Of course, these systems aren’t foolproof. FDOT concedes there are situations in which the cable barriers haven’t worked, but overall, it has saved lives.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Critics say alligator alley guardrails will dent safety records, May 3, 2016, NBC-2
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