Lessons from Hurricane Irma: 1. Roundabouts

West Boca News has often advocated for roundabouts. Hurricane Irma showed us another advantage. When the power went out so did traffic lights, and our intersections became chaotic nightmares. Roundabouts are unaffected by power outages.
In general they’re safer and more efficient than regular intersections. Carmel Indiana converted over 100 intersections to roundabouts and saw “a 40% decrease in accidents, with an 80% decrease in injury-causing crashes and90% reduction in fatalities.” By comparison its non-roundabout neighbor Indianapolis saw: “a 30 percent increase in accidents with injury and a 16 percent increase in accidents resulting in a fatality ….”
I was discussing this with a friend who lives south of Glades off Lyons. FDOT is in the middle of a $1.8 million dollar project on Lyons. The main problem was the high volume of serious accidents at or near the intersection on Lyons with Escondido Way, the entrances to Escondido and Timbers of Boca. The so-called solution: straighten the curves and bank the roadway. Not only does this fail to address the intersection itself, but it will allow traffic on Lyons to go faster, making the intersection even more dangerous.
FDOT was more concerned with cars going off the road due to excessive speed on the curves, but their crash analysis did not break down severity by type of accident. Anyone who drives there knows that making a left turn onto Lyons there from either side is uncomfortable at best.
It is well known that roundabouts make intersections safer, but FDOT and our local politicians ignore that. Instead FDOT is increasing the speed of traffic entering an intersection known to be dangerous.
Below are a series of images showing what the intersection of Lyons and Escondido would look like with a Carmel roundabout superimposed on it. The images and map data are from Google Maps.

Many of our readers dismiss roundabouts with quick responses. Let’s be clear – Carmel Indiana saw a 90% reduction in traffic fatalities by converting many intersections to roundabouts. You can only oppose roundabouts if you want more people to die. Roundabouts save lives.

$1.8M FDOT Project Coming to Lyons

Lyons Road, southbound; image and map data by Google
Lyons Road, southbound; image and map data by Google

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has recommended spending nearly two million dollars to prevent accidents on the curved section of Lyons Road. A review of crashes over a five year period (2007 to 2011) found a concentration in this area:

The police hard copy crash reports revealed that 48 of these crashes involved vehicles traveling along the curved section of Lyons Road. Of these, 37 happened north of the intersection with Escondido Way; 26 were traveling southbound on Lyons Road and 11 were traveling northbound. Furthermore, 22 crashes involved wet pavement. Nine crashes were recorded in the intersection of Escondido Way and Lyons Road. A majority of the crashes (32 crashes or 58.2%) were run off the road crashes.

We reported on a crash in this area in May on the West Boca News Facebook page.

Map data by Google
Map data by Google

Our readers will be surprised to hear this (sarcasm alert) but apparently drivers go faster than the recommended speed in this area:

The analysis of speed data collected on the study segment on May 21, 2012 showed that almost 100% of the motorists were driving over the advisory speed (30 mph) by an average of 30.17% to 48.73% above the speed. Vehicles in the 85th percentile traveled even faster, averaging between 40% and 66.67% over the advisory speed.

Data points included many over 50 mph and even some over 60 mph, or double the recommended speed.
In an earlier phase of the project “speed feedback signs” (the ones that flash when you’re going too fast) were installed. They didn’t work:

The analysis of the speed data revealed that the installation of the SFSs did not bring down the speeds significantly and that the majority of the motorists still traveled substantially above the advisory speed of 30 mph.

Since the signs didn’t work, FDOT is now recommending major roadwork on the curved section.

Reconstruct the roadway typical section per Palm Beach County Engineering and Public Works recommendations to improve existing super elevation through the curves. The proposed reconstruction project will rebuild the three curved segments of the road with the super elevation appropriate for the 40-mph design speed limit, relax the three horizontal curves, add shoulders on both sides, and add a 6-foot pathway on the west side of the road.

The report does not provide much detail on the changes beyond what’s written above, but the reference to super elevation suggests the curves will be banked, but not as much as this picture:
It’s unclear when this roadwork will begin, but it should take several weeks with dramatic traffic impact.
The full FDOT report is below:
[gview file=”https://westbocanews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Lyons-Rd_Norte-Lago-to-Pine-Springs-Dr-Study_-final2.pdf”]

Dump Truck Rollover Blocks 441: Photos and Video

US-441 was blocked this morning for a few hours because of an accident. We’re told that the dump truck was making a left turn from Glades Road onto 441 southbound. It’s unclear why but the truck rolled over onto its side. It was carrying a heavy load of stone and it’s possible the weight shifted unexpectedly.
Fortunately no one was seriously injured. Several deputies from PBSO kept the area safe while workers cleaned up the mess. FDOT staff and contractors working on clearing out the stone and removing the fuel from the truck – it was reported that there was a partial leak.

Contractor removing oil from truck.
Contractor removing oil from truck.

Traffic was severely affected. We had reports from people who were unable to get out of Mission Bay Plaza. The section of 441 coming southbound north of Glades was backed up, to Kimberly and possibly to Yamato Road. They were unable to continue southbound on 441. Some turned right and cut through the Sports Authority parking lot. Others went left and we’re not sure what they did from there.
Other traffic wasn’t quite as bad. Northbound 441 seemed unaffected. Westbound traffic on Glades was slowed a little. Eastbound traffic on Glades did have to wait an extra cycle or two at the 441 light.
Glades Road west of 441
Glades Road west of 441

We shot several videos at the scene:

This one seems to be the most popular of our videos:

A reader sent us this video of the truck being lifted back up.

And here are a couple more of our videos plus some extra photos:


Road Work on Glades Continues

We have seen a noticeable increase in traffic delays on Glades Road due to lane closures. FDOT’s latest description shows the work has intensified:

Restrictions: One lane will be closed, daily, westbound, 7 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., with one lane closed, eastbound, 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday through summer 2014. One lane will be closed, nightly, westbound, 6:30 p.m. until 7 a.m., with one lane closed, eastbound, 4:30 p.m. until 8:30 a.m., Monday through Thursday through summer 2014.

In recent days we posted pictures on our Facebook page of lane closures at the Lyons Road intersection. At least one reader also warned about substantial delays, saying: “Avoid Glades and Lyons.”

The latest closures are a bigger problem because they’re closing the middle lane, which is more awkward for drivers. Earlier in the project they stuck to the far right lane or the far left.

FDOT’s description of the project is:

Glades Road (CR 808) from State Road 7 to Lyons Road
Construction on this 1.5-mile project began Tuesday, January 7, 2014, in Boca Raton. Work consists of repaving the roadway, signalization upgrades, mast arm installation, curb, sidewalk, and guardrail upgrades, and sign, landscape and irrigation improvements. The project costs an estimated $2.4 million. The work is being performed by Weekley Asphalt Paving, Inc. and is expected to be completed fall 2014.

We note that while the description says “to Lyons Road”, we have seen work also on the east side of that intersection.
For more info see our previous article on the project.

US-441 Improvements Coming?

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is working on plans to improve US-441 (State Road 7). They’re looking specifically at the stretch from Glades Road in West Boca down to Sample Road in Broward County. FDOT is making a presentation to the Palm Beach County Metropolitan Planning Organization on Thursday at 9 am, which is considering whether to endorse the plan:

The plan recommends (in bureaucratic language of course):

Context Sensitive Alternative with multimodal solutions
– Bicycle and pedestrian facilities
– Transit stop infrastructure and access improvements
– Intersection improvements to improve traffic flow
Transportation systems management and operations (TSM&O) initiatives
– Traffic signal system operations
– Traveler information and incident management
– Transit service and operations

A lot of the discussion deals with “transit” which is another word for buses. Palm Tran and BCT (Broward County Transit) are mentioned by name in the document we reviewed.

The biggest change we see in pictures like the one above are the “Premium Bus Stop.” While much of the focus is on transit, there are some minor intersection improvements in the conversation, and most are in West Boca. This may be a smaller part of the document but it looks like a much bigger chunk of money.

The plans would add or expand turn lanes at Marina (SW 18th), Sandalfoot, Judge Winikoff, Palmetto Park, Boca Woods, and Glades Road. Some of these make little sense to us. For example, the plan says to “add a westbound right-turn lane” at Palmetto Park Road. There is already a long right-turn lane there and we’ve never seen it back up.

The proposal to add a “westbound left-turn lane” at Boca Woods Lane makes even less sense. Boca Woods Lane, by that name, sits entirely west of 441. The east side, where a westbound left-turn lane would be, is named N Central Park Blvd. That’s the loop that serves West Boca Medical Center. It already has a left-turn lane.

Adding a westbound turn lane at Sandalfoot would probably require a bridge upgrade, which we mentioned before is in the works.
The most important change mentioned is increasing storage capacity for the southbound left-turn lanes on 441 at Glades. These back up quite a bit, though we don’t see a lot of room for that because of the northbound left turn lane into Mission Bay Plaza.

Other plans include:

Traffic Signal System Operation
• Signal coordination through jurisdictional boundaries n Adaptive signal timing
• Peak period arterial progression
• Dynamic signal timing
Information and Incident Management
• Incident and emergency management
•Traveler information systems
• Transit information system
• Transit signal priority/Queue jump

Most of it again sounds like efforts to improve busing, such as signs to provide updates on transit information (such as how far away the next bus is). Others may not appreciate giving buses priority on traffic signals.
For the next five years transit improvements will be limited to traffic signals and signs for bus status updates. There’s also talk of creating a hub at West Boca Medical Center to connect Palm Tran and BCT, as well as upgrading bus stops.
If all goes ahead as planned the intersection improvements would start about five years from now.
The project website is SR7Mobility.com. For the document that was provided to us by FDOT and that will be used for Thursday morning’s meeting, click the following link for the SR7-US-441 pdf file.