Following multiple serious accidents and months of public outcry, the Florida Department of Transportation finally plans to take action to fight deadly “lane diving” on Interstate 95 through Miami.
FDOT officials recently announced plans to install wider shoulders and sturdier divider poles — replacing the insubstantial, orange poles that do little to stop drivers from weaving between the express and regular interstate lanes.
We’ve updated you for several months on the dangerous conditions the flimsy lane separation has created on I-95. Many motorists routinely ignore posted speed limits — and traffic laws — to cross between the poles and into the express lanes, often intruding into the paths of much faster-moving vehicles. Multiple accidents, serious injuries and deaths have resulted.
Poles to Be Sturdier, More Closely Spaced
Officials note that they plan to install twice as many poles as are installed currently on I-95 in Miami-Dade County. In addition, the poles will be spaced 5 feet apart rather than the current 10 feet, providing less leeway for motorists to cut into the faster-moving express lanes with little warning to other drivers.
The cost of installing the new poles is projected to be $2 million. FDOT officials hope to recover at least a portion of the price tag from a decreased need to replace the flimsier poles approximately every year, at a cost of about $1 million. The new poles are expected to be installed later this year. Not to mention the potential savings from personal injury and wrongful death claims.
Change Expected to Influence Highway Behavior
The new, sturdier poles won’t provide a 100-percent deterrent to impatient drivers who currently cut through the I-95 orange poles. However, the shorter distance available for passing through the poles — 5 feet versus the current 10 feet — along with the sturdier construction of the poles will mean drivers must be more skilled to pass through.
The closer pole placement will provide a shorter line of sight when a driver checks the rear view mirror before illegally cutting into the express lanes. FDOT officials say they do expect some degree of deterrence for drivers who cause the dangerous conditions by cutting in and out of traffic moving at varying speeds.
Even Better Technology Available
One FDOT official noted recently that the best technology available for the interstate would be a shoulder area at full width, along with a concrete wall serving as a barrier. But space is a problem for installing such a solution; the 4-foot available area does not provide adequate space for a concrete barrier wall and a safe amount of separation from the traffic lanes.
Land is limited in urban Miami, officials noted, and the new safety precautions will be the best available within the current constraints.
Wider Shoulders, Stopping Zones to Be Created
Reversible, single express lanes that are used on Interstate 595 — and that are currently being installed on I-75 — would not work on I-95, FDOT officials note. During rush hour, when express lanes see their heaviest use, traffic on the Broward highways includes more vehicles moving in one direction than does traffic on I-95.
However, officials plan to expand the extremely narrow shoulders in five places to allow enough space for a vehicle with its doors open. The expanded shoulder areas each will be between 1,200 and 2,000 feet long.
The expansion will give drivers more space to deal with any problem that requires them to stop; as the situation stands now, stopped vehicles must sit partly in the left express lane. A Florida Highway Patrol spokesman noted that the wider shoulders will provide a safer environment and will allow officers to do their jobs more proficiently.
Crews will create the new, safer stopping zones by moving the barrier walls, at an estimated cost of $8.5 million. The project is expected to be complete in early 2018.
Citizen Action Gets Results
We’re relieved that FDOT finally is taking action to correct the dangerous situation caused by the I-95 express lanes and the reckless drivers who endanger others. Attention from the media and from concerned citizens — many of whom signed our petition — no doubt has played a role in the coming changes. We will continue to keep you informed about new developments and actions you can take to stay safe on the interstate.
If you’ve been injured in a wreck due to unsafe conditions or thoughtless actions by another driver, it is in your best interests to work with an experienced car accident attorney. For a free consultation, please contact Kaire & Heffernan, LLC.