MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A project designed to make driving on I-95 in Miami-Dade less dangerous gets underway Tuesday as the Florida Department of Transportation begins to deal with a flaw that’s made express toll lanes deadly at times.
The tolled express lanes in Miami-Dade have seen mayhem and death as impatient motorists drive over flimsy plastic divider poles to zip along faster, often cutting off traffic in the toll lane.
In April, a so-called “lane diver” swerved into the express lane, with deadly results for a motorcyclist who was unable to avoid hitting her. He was thrown all the way over into oncoming traffic.
Aledys Llanes, a port worker and father of a 4-year-old was killed.
FDOT is moving now to stop the carnage, installing much more durable express lane poles. The poles are designed not to get knocked down when run over.
There are many stretches now where three or four of the existing flimsy poles are missing.
Not only will these new poles be a lot tougher, they won’t be nearly as far apart.
“These delineators are going to be twice as close. We have them at 10 feet, we’re going to put them at five feet,” said FDOT District Six Secretary James Wolfe.
Another safety measure to be implemented is the construction of five new emergency stopping sites along the I-95 Express corridor from NW 62 Street to NW 131 Street. These wider, 13-foot shoulders, measuring between 1200 and 1900 feet in length, will give both law enforcement and drivers more room to pull off the express lanes for emergency stops or enforcement activities.
Construction of the new emergency stopping sites is expected to begin in January 2017 and take approximately one year to complete.
“People go in and out of the express lanes willy-nilly,” Angela Birdman said.
Her son, Alec Birdman, was a victim.
He was cut off by an express lane diver. He was saved by his airbags, thought his SUV was destroyed.
She thinks more than tougher divider poles are needed.
“We need to make a stiffer penalty for people who do cross these barricades and cause accidents,” she said.
The alleged lane diver in Llanes’ death was charged with improper passing, which is a simple traffic citation.
While advocates wait for a possible change in the law, stronger poles will have to do.
“Installation of those new, more substantial lane dividers will begin tomorrow night and is expected to be completed the length of the ‘I’ north and southbound within 10 weeks,” Wolfe said.
That means the new poles will I-95 from downtown to the Golden Glades in both directions.
The new poles and stopping zones will cost $11 million. FDOT said the poles will virtually pay for themselves by lowering replacement costs.