A long, long time ago…
I can still remember
How living in Miami Beach used to make me smile…

That was – until FDOT took control of Alton Rd, hijacked West Avenue, a formerly quiet residential Boulevard, and dumped thousand of trucks, busses, taxis, and motorcycles right in front of our homes for the duration of over 1 year, turning it into an urban superhighway.
Cars, exhaust, pollution. Welcome to West Ave.

Cars, exhaust, pollution. Welcome to West Ave.

Act 1

March 2013.

As soon as the mega-project was announced, I contacted the City of Miami Beach and FDOT to inquire about what their plans were to mitigate all the traffic and what their plans were for pedestrian safety. The aide to then-mayor Matti Bower, Gabrielle Redfern, took the time to respond.

The mayor is also concerned about how this construction will effect traffic. The City has done its best to work with FDOT to make the project as painless to the residents as possible. Please continue to share your thoughts with the mayor. Your feelings are very important to her.”

I felt emboldened and encouraged that the mayor cared about my feelings. But what was their plan for pedestrian safety?

Act 2

November 2013.

When FDOT started reconfiguring West Ave to 2 Southbound lanes in late 2013 I reported several noise complaint to the City. For some reason FDOT thought it was a good idea to tear open the street to remove those traffic lines in the middle at 4am. I sent a few angry emails about the nighttime noise to Heather Leslie, FDOT’s Public Information Specialist. Her answer went,

The current nighttime work is to restripe West Avenue from 17 Street to 6 Street in order to prepare for the next phase of work on Alton Road. The contractor is completing this work at night because the striping operation requires lane closures and potential detours. We understand the ongoing work has been difficult, and the team will continue to do its best to mitigate the inconveniences.

Where apparently, “mitigating the inconveniences” means “occasionally answering your emails”.  The city never answered to these complaints.
It turns out, that nighttime noise was going to be the least of our problems. As soon as the traffic was re-routed to West Ave that November, it was as though the gates of hell had opened and unleashed previously unknown amounts of nightmarish traffic, noise, and pollution onto West Ave. At the same time, there was no enforcement of speed limits of any sort or any kind of traffic calming for pedestrians. We were left to fend for ourselves. The residents of my condominium quickly gathered at the face of this danger. We contacted the City and FDOT again. A neighbor sent the following email:

I live at 13th and West Avenue.  I am a Senior Records Clerk for a local Police Department and my wife is employed a a local Hospital as a nurse in the pediatric intensive care unit.  We have two daughters under the age of 2.  We have lived at the same address for over 10 years.  West Avenue is not the same roadway as when we first began living here.   There have been so many occasions where my family have sat at the crosswalk on West Ave and 14th Street as car after car passes us by, not so much as giving us a glance.  Recently, I entered the crosswalk and an oncoming vehicle southbound did not slow down.  I had to throw my daughter behind me and scream at the top of my lungs for a car to stop in the far left lane.  When he did, he actually gave me the finger and told me to get out of the way.  My wife and I no longer cross West Avenue at all.  It is not the same for my family, let alone the other many families who live in the area, or the many elderly citizens who frequent this intersection.  I watch from my balcony as cars fly by, not yielding whatsoever to pedestrians who have the right of way.  Now that southbound West Avenue has been increased to two lanes it is more dangerous than ever.  Without a stoplight, or a speed bump of some kind, it is without question that it is a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or killed at that intersection.

This seemed to have gotten FDOT’s attention. A meeting was scheduled for December. Heather Leslie, Enrique Tamayo,  Amanda Shotton, and Ivan Hay from FDOT as well as Lynn Bernstein from the City met us in front of our building on West Ave. Ivan remarked how he could never live here (no wonder). That day they actually witnessed a girl nearly getting hit that morning at the intersection. They all agreed it was unsafe. FDOT then conducted a traffic study and determined that a stop light was needed on 14th and flashing lights were needed on 9th and 12th Streets. After this was determined a whole lot of nothing happened for a whole lot of time.

Act 3

May 2014.

I keep emailing Heather once every month to ask for updates. And then, just 6 months after meeting FDOT….
BAM! We have FLASHING PEDESTRIAN CROSSING SIGNS!!
Pedestrian Signs! Flashing!

Pedestrian Signs! Flashing!

I feel as excited about this basic safety improvement as I would for the fanciest Birthday gift! Finally, our concerns were heard and the powers that be show that they actually care…or do they?

Still nothing has happened on 13th Street or 14th Streets. Ms Leslie has informed me that “The final design plans for the temporary signal at 14 Street have been completed and the materials are currently being procured. The light will be installed once the materials arrive. As discussed, these pedestrian features require engineering plans, as well as the coordination with the various agencies.“) . I emailed FDOT a link to some traffic calming devices on Amazon, for $1600 and asked why they couldn’t just buy one of those but I guess they were not amused by that suggestion.

 

Epilogue

I never heard from the newly elected mayor Mr. Levine, but judging from his Facebook account he is busy meeting celebrities or running in Washington DC.
I’ve never seen police give tickets for nearly running over pedestrians on West Ave. And yet, this happens all day, every day. There is a police officer parked on 17th St and West which is great but that is just one intersection of many on West, and in my opinion not the busiest one for pedestrians.
We have an older lady in our building who leaves the house with a little walking stick so she can threaten cars who do not cede to her passing.
When I cross I am usually wave like a lunatic at those cute little “Stop for Pedestrians” sign in the hope of getting drivers to look up from their cell phones, into my face.
Why is it that we cannot have some adequate traffic enforcement and traffic calming to ensure people do not DIE on the streets of our “world-class” city?

 

3 Responses to How we got FDOT to install flashing lights for pedestrians. A drama in 3 acts.

  1. Mike Arias says:

    First, of all I would like to commend you on your efforts to have the pedestrians issues of concern addressed and hopefully corrected which is in every residents public safety vested interests.

    For the record unknown if you are currently aware that Miami Dade is currently ranked # 1 in the State leading in all fatality categories which includes pedestrians and bicyclists.

    In addition, the State of Florida is currently ranked 3 rd in the Nation in all motor vehicle related fatality categories and this ranking will most likely change next year due to the speed increases that will be enacted on over 1500 miles of roadways many of which are currently unsafe and that also have no traffic enforcement occurring on them.

    Over the last 10 years 8 pedestrians have either been injured or killed on US # 1 directly in front of the U/M and after so many needless tragedies occurred finally there is going to be a much needed and long overdue overhead pedestrian walkway built and installed at this location which should hopefully prevent any additional preventable tragedies from occurring at this high volume hazardous location for pedestrians.

    Try crossing US # 1 and SW 118 street ( a 6 lane roadway to reach the bus way from 6:00 am and 12 midnight) on weekdays which is simply a death defying stunt for abled body pedestrians which is another hazardous pedestrian crosswalk location that for unknown reasons was NEVER equipped with any warning lights to warn and stop oncoming speeding vehicles that are traveling at 50 to 60 mph on this roadway (whenever the traffic conditions permit) where a tragedy is simply awaiting to occur at this other hazardous location.

    Although the roadway and elected officials are often oblivious as to what is occurring on the public roadways in their cities pertaining to public safety issues stay committed to the cause of improving public safety ( although at times it may seem frustrating dealing with delays and bureacracy)on the public roadways for the resident pedestrians / bicylists in your neighborhood which is in everyones public safety vested interests.

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  2. B says:

    Thank you for your effort at getting the flashing crosswalks on West! I would point out that I have lived on the east side of South Beach for 2 months now and have not yet noticed them, as I am usually closer to Lincoln Road and Alton/West. Hopefully they install some further north, and hopefully they stay in place after the construction is finished.

    That death trap crossing at SW 118th and US1 would really need to be a red light, like the one in front of Dadeland North station, not just a flashing crosswalk. Flashing crosswalks simply don’t work on high speed roads with 6 lanes. They barely even work on moderate speed 4 lane roads like lower Brickell. Whoever signs off on the plans for these things should be required to actually use it on completion.

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  3. Jeff Redding says:

    I am a vision impaired disabled vet who has been fighting with the FDOT for over ten years about their policy of placing street lamp posts in the middle of the sidewalk and calling it ADA Compliant because they only have to provide a 36 inch clearance to the curb for wheelchair access. The FDOT is using the ADA to circumvent DOT FHA Standards which govern the placement of light posts and reserve the center of the sidewalk for Pedestrians.

    ADA Law was not enacted so that Contractors can save money by obstructing our sidewalks. This is an abuse of the ADA and as a Disabled Veteran it dishonors my service. Anyone concerned about Civil Rights and tha ADA should be outraged at the conduct of the FDOT.

    From 2000 to 2010, there have been 781 federal convictions on corruption charges in Florida. That’s an average of one every five days for 10 straight years. (WTSP)

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