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East County Wednesday, May. 12, 2010 7 years ago

Death prompts changes at Ranch intersection

by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

LAKEWOOD RANCH — It’s only been about six months since Greenbrook resident Bette Jacobs learned her mother had been killed in an accident on State Road 70 in front of the Lakewood Ranch Post Office.

And although both the Florida Department of Transportation and Manatee County are working to implement changes to improve safety, Jacobs still is worried another driver may suffer the same fate as her mom.

“When you pull out, it’s like pulling out on Interstate 75,” Jacobs said. “Some of (the oncoming vehicles) are going at least 70 mph.”

Jacobs, on several instances, has pulled into that particular intersection with no oncoming traffic in sight, only to have another vehicle on her bumper in seconds.

“You can’t speed up fast enough,” she said.

A Manatee County Sheriff’s Office report stated on Dec. 8, 2009, Jacob’s mother, Josephine Malenich, was exiting south on Post Boulevard and failed to stop her vehicle at the stop sign. An oncoming SUV struck the left front of Malenich’s car, pushing it across S.R. 70 into the south shoulder of the road.

The other driver suffered minor injuries.

Because of Malenich’s death, the Florida Department of Transportation conducted a traffic study of the intersection of S.R. 70 and Greenbrook Boulevard/Post Boulevard earlier this year. However, traffic counts showed the intersection did not yet meet criteria for placing a traffic signal, which is used for controlling traffic, not regulating speed.

FDOT spokesperson Cindy Clemmons said during the eight peak traffic hours, only two hours exceeded the 105-vehicle-per-hour minimum threshold for traffic turning from side streets. The average side street delay was less than 20 seconds, while the minimum requirement is at least one minute.

FDOT officials maintain that installing a traffic signal prematurely could actually increase accidents, particularly rear-end collisions, as evidenced by data.

However, study recommendations included changing the existing “Curve Ahead” sign on S.R. 70 to one that represents a curve with an intersection. The sign has been ordered and will be installed within days of its arrival, which should be by the end of June, Clemmons said.

“We believe this change should provide adequate notification for traffic along State Road 70 about the intersection,” Clemmons said.

Clemmons also said the FDOT conducted speed studies between Interstate 75 and County Road 675 in February. Based on the results, no changes to the speed along S.R. 70 were recommended.

Additionally, Manatee County is installing “Stop Ahead” pavement legends in the southbound lanes of Post Boulevard about 300 feet north of S.R. 70 in conjunction with two “Stop Ahead” signs. It also plans to install two “Stop” pavement legends five to 10 feet in front of the exiting stop bars for southbound traffic along Post Boulevard.

But even with the changes, Jacobs is worried. Although investigators determined Malenich’s death is attributed to her running through a stop sign, Jacobs still believes the speed of cars on S.R. 70 is a safety issue.

“I don’t want to have somebody else (get killed),” Jacobs said.

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].

FDOT reports there were five accidents at the intersection between 2006 and 2008. In 2009, there were three accidents, all with injuries and one with a fatality.

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