Last night, a team of ten FDOT traffic engineers, public information officers and project managers came to Simpson Park to tell local residents what to expect from their 400-day long Brickell Avenue resurfacing project.
Also last night, in the very same place, some 50+ people who live, work, own property as well as condos, who play or have a vested interest in the heart of Miami being ‘world class’ rather than a ‘highway standard’, came to ask questions, plead for changes and speak out publicly/loudly demanding that “the bullshit has got to stop with FDOT!”
One PIO (Public Information Officer) asked her colleague in front of me afterward where all these walking and biking people were when they started the project. The two looked at me blankly – I said, they were here, on Brickell; not reading your notices in the Herald or even aware that their local street was considered an FDOT highway. We had a positive moment.
Here are some summary points from the meeting:
1) We met Andres Beriartu, one of the project administrators and clearly someone who wants to be professional and positive going into this project. If you have questions specific to the construction (sidewalk detours, dust, noise, closures, etc), you can email him here. There will be lots of work, but they will keep one lane open at all times and will confine construction to non-rush hour times.
2) No Street Harassment from FDOT: Andres promised to make professionalism a top priority for everyone working on the ground. Women present, myself included, were impressed. We’ll post more in January.
3) Share the Road Signs: We will get ‘Share the Road Signs’ by February 2012 along Brickell. We may get some during construction. What about Ride Right/Drive Right Signs? They promised to consider them and, as Director of the South Florida Bike Coalition, I will be strongly urging them to demonstrate an honest concern for bicyclists’ safety throughout the project. We want better signage! And Sharrows! And… !!!
4) Shared Use Lane Markings/ Sharrows: Not gonna happen. BUT, they are ‘considering’ reducing the speed limit on Brickell, which would make it ‘standard-compliant.’ In other words, we can still be optimistic but only if the post speed limit is reduced.
5) Reducing the Speed Limit Under Consideration: Transit Miami and the Bike Coalition have partnered with everyone from the Brickell Area Association to the Mayor to request a safe, state-standard speed limit for this densest of residential corridors. Despite to their dismissive emails and comments to me personally, the Traffic Operations division hired some ‘spotters’ to collect data last weekend on how many people and bikes were present and how fast a random selection of cars were going. Mr. Ramon Sierra told us that if you admit to finding yourself speeding anywhere at anytime, your opinion is irrelevant – but he also said that he is going to try and review this data before Christmas, given it’s his only priority, but made no promises. However, when he is done reviewing the data… we get to see it, so we are looking forward to that.
And, wait for it: During construction, the Posted Speed Limit will be 25 MPH. Couldn’t it just stay that way after the project, a few people asked. ‘If data from last weekend supports it.’
6) Lighting on Brickell is not going to be what so many local property owners have been asking for for the last 5-7 years. Sorry. FDOT has decided on lights that are consistent with Brickell ten years ago, not ten years from now.
7) Crosswalks: Good News! FDOT has graciously given the Miami DDA and the City of Miami the permission to pay for the design and installation of ‘several’ new crosswalks. These crosswalks will be 10 feet wide, ‘decorative’ and flat with the concrete or asphalt pavement. FDOT reps said that they would have liked to let the DDA pay for more, but crosswalks on all sides can impede left turns. Still, this is a real, tangible benefit for people who walk, bike and drive because they will have the added effect of slowing traffic.
8 ) What’s a raised crosswalk? The Traffic Operations professional working on this project did not know what a raised crosswalk was. He told us, “I saw one once. You don’t want them; they’re loud.” This blew away a lot of people in the room, since raised crosswalks are commonly used in traffic calming all over the United States, and in cities as far away as Miami Shores (those urban pioneers!). Sierra replied that he would be concerned for bicyclists. Seriously. Upon our clarifying that cyclists want them, his fellow engineers stepped up to show their own lack of familiarity with this facility type by suggesting the disabled don’t like ramps.
At this point, I started to feel for these FDOT employees, surrounded by vocal, angry, informed customers. Some people got really, really angry. Others attacked these people’s employer or their chosen profession with, well, some pretty effective verbal ammunition. It seems that as long as Brickell Avenue is known as Highway US-1, there will always be a conflict between those who want a safe, clean street and those who feel compelled to the single rote reply: “We can’t, that’s not up to standard.” Then again – how can we forgive those in power who do bad things, all the way just explaining, ‘But that’s my job.’ No, no, it’s not. (Read reader Ned’s recount of the meeting here)
In the end, individual FDOT employees softened. I can’t understand why they are so adverse to thinking outside their box, of reaching out to their colleagues within the US for the data they need to support better street design. This is something we do at TransitMiami.com, something I did regularly when I worked for the City of Miami and an almost daily party of my job with the Bike Coalition. Still, their mission statement reminds us that You are the Boss of FDOT. Write to them, call them and demand that they stay true to their mission to “provide a safe transportation system that ensures the mobility of people and goods, enhances economic prosperity and preserves the quality of our environment and communities.” Then write to them and call them again. FDOT is a behemoth, but the people within the system are people, too. And sometimes, even they have to cross the street.
- For additional questions or if you have comments you would like on the record (support better signs than Share the Road and an effective speed limit!), please contact Heather Leslie at 305.499.2391 or Heather.Leslie@dot.state.fl.us.
- FDOT Resurfacing Project Coming to Brickell; Transit Miami Eye is Watching
- FDOT Showdown on Brickell. Let’s Rally the Livable Streets Troops!
- Miami Herald reports on Brickell Avenue resurfacing; FDOT refuses to do the right thing.
- Brickell Has Spoken. Will FDOT Listen and Do the Right Thing?
- Transit Miami and FDOT take a field trip on Brickell Avenue
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