Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Accidents on A1A May Signal Traffic Woes

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Accidents on A1A May Signal Traffic Woes

Article excerpt

Byline: Maggie FitzRoy and Caren Burmeister, Times-Union staff writers

A routine trip to the grocery store didn't turn out the way Kelly Whitt expected on Tuesday.

On her way home from Sawgrass Village shopping center, she was traveling south on Florida A1A in Ponte Vedra Beach when a man drove his golf cart in front of her 2000 Toyota utility truck.

Whitt slowed and swerved, but the driver, David Draz, kept coming. When Whitt's vehicle struck the golf cart, Draz flew out.

Draz, 78, had cuts on his face and was taken to Baptist Medical Center-Beaches.

Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Richard Conover, the officer on the scene, said Draz's injuries were minor. Whitt wasn't cited; Draz was cited for violation of right of way.

"They said if I hadn't swerved and wasn't going as slow as I was, he could have been killed," Whitt said as she waited for Conover to finish his investigation. The accident occurred in the center of A1A between the gated communities of Fairfield and Sawgrass Country Club. At 10:30 that morning, that was the day's second accident there.

Several people who stopped to see about the accident expressed frustration with the traffic in the area and the number of accidents that occur near the intersection. People drive in and out of both communities near the section of southbound A1A that narrows from two lanes to one.

"It wouldn't be a bad idea to have a light there," Whitt said. "People don't realize . . . there needs to be something to slow it all down."

Florida Department of Transportation officials said they weren't aware of the two accidents on Tuesday. They said they also aren't aware of any recent requests, from county officials or citizens, for a traffic signal at Fairfield Boulevard and A1A.

However, DOT did get requests for a traffic light at the Fairfield Boulevard intersection about 18 month ago from motorists who complained that it was dangerous to make a left turns onto A1A in either direction, said Rodney Cooper, a DOT traffic studies engineer.

But DOT officials didn't recommend a traffic signal there, saying a review of traffic volume and accident statistics did not warrant one at that time, Cooper said.

The agency could consider new requests, said Chris LeDew, an assistant district traffic operations engineer with DOT.

"If there were a spike in the crash data, that would draw our attention to the intersection," LeDew said.

Their decision would rely primarily on the intersection's safety and its efficiency, which refers to the length of delays. They would also consider the area's residential and business growth in making a decision, LeDew said.

The DOT recently released a 2003 level of service report, which showed that A1A throughout the Beaches and Ponte Vedra Beach is failing. In some places along the roadway, traffic is almost twice the road's capacity.

Nearly all of A1A from Atlantic Boulevard south to the St. Johns County line and through Ponte Vedra Beach received an F because the road is handling many more cars than it was designed to carry, according to the report. The F means the traffic exceeds the road's capacity and that motorists face slower speeds, delays and a greater number of traffic accidents.

The report also said:

The agency counted 42,500 cars on the state road from TPC Boulevard to County Road 210, which surpasses the 32,700 capacity. From Marlin Avenue to the St. Johns County line, 49,500 cars were counted, compared to the 35,700 standard. …

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