Fatality sparks push for signal

 

Fatality sparks push for signal

 

Date: December 16, 2009
by: Pam Eubanks | News Editor

 
 

LAKEWOOD RANCH — A fatality at the intersection of Post Boulevard and State Road 70 last week has made the interchange a top priority for Lakewood Ranch officials.

“We’re going to start pushing for a traffic light; I don’t care whether it’s warranted or not,” Schroeder-Manatee Ranch’s President and CEO Rex Jensen said. “It’s better to be safe.”

According to the Florida Department of Transportation, there have been less than a handful of accidents at the intersection since the Lakewood Ranch Post Office opened in November 2008. The intersection claimed its first fatality Dec. 8, 2009, when Josephine Malenich, 85, failed to stop at the stop sign heading southward on Post Boulevard and continued onto State Road 70. An oncoming vehicle was unable to stop, striking Malenich’s 2000 Honda on the front left side.

Malenich died on scene. The other driver, 55-year-old Joanne Klinetop of Pheonix, N.Y., suffered minor injuries and about $9,000 in damage to her vehicle.

On Monday, a bouquet of flowers rested in the grassy area outside the southwestern corner of the intersection where Malenich’s vehicle stopped.

Jensen said he did not know whether a traffic light at the intersection could have prevented the accident, but he did not understand the state’s “calloused approach” for determining if traffic signals should be installed.

“If it were up to me, there would have been a light there a long time ago,” he said. “I’m furious over the issue.”

Within 24 hours of the accident, Jensen had approached SMR’s traffic engineer to see if traffic at the intersection warranted a light and to write a letter to FDOT pushing for a signal, he said.

Because of the recent fatality and resident concern of the intersection, FDOT will conduct a traffic study in January or February to see if a signal now is warranted, FDOT spokesperson Cindy Clemmons said.

Criteria used by the state requires that side street traffic volume must exceed 105 vehicles per hour for eight hours of a standard weekday, among other factors.

“Keep in mind, a traffic signal is not a safety device,” Clemmons said. “It’s a traffic control device that assigns the right of way to vehicles.”

Studies show placing a traffic signal at intersections that do not get enough traffic actually see an increase in accidents, particularly rear-end collisions, Clemmons said.

The last traffic study was conducted in 2007. Results showed the intersection was not ready for signalization, she said.

When reevaluating the site, FDOT engineers will consider the geographical layout of the intersection and other factors besides traffic counts.

“Because of this recent fatality, (our engineers) understand how important this is and people have a high concern,” Clemmons said. “We will do our best in analyzing the situation. We will look at whether it warrants a signal. If it doesn’t, we will look at other options. Our No. 1 priority is safety.”

Clemmons declined to give specific examples of what types of devices besides a traffic signal could be used to improve safety at the intersection of S.R. 70 and Post Boulevard but said generally safety at intersections can be improved with items such as increased signage and flashing lights if signals are not warranted.

Contact Pam Eubanks at peubanks@yourobserver.com.

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