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Traffic fix is years away

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http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/...ty/10499174.htm

Posted on Sun, Dec. 26, 2004

PINES-FLAMINGO

Traffic fix is years away

A long-term safety fix for Pines-Flamingo intersection is years away, although local officials could look for money to speed up the project.

BY AMY SHERMAN

[email protected]

More than three years after State Farm insurance called the Pines Boulevard-Flamingo Road intersection the worst in the country, long-term improvements remain at least a decade away.

Broward County's transportation board has included the roadwork on a list of potential projects to begin between 2011 and 2030. That means the soonest a proposed overpass could be completed is 2015.

Some city officials say they don't want to wait that long. They have reason for concern: The crash rate is more than double that of similar intersections in the state.

So far, city officials haven't done much to push the project forward other than the mayor writing a letter urging the county transportation board to get it done sooner.

City officials hope smaller traffic fixes planned for next year will help upgrade safety, but they would only improve the road's grade from an ''F'' to an ``E''.

The improvements may lead to fewer accidents but won't necessarily improve the traffic flow, said Patrick Glass, an FDOT planner. The congestion may not decrease much with an overpass either -- it will likely still be an F -- but it will only be worse if it's left alone, FDOT officials said.

''The only way to deal with capacity is to go over it,'' Glass said. ``The intersection is about as big as it's ever going to get right now.''

Richard Kaplan, mayor of Lauderhill and chairman of the county's Metropolitan Planning Organization, said Pines has to wait its turn to get a major overhaul of the intersection.

''We have lots of very critical intersections within Broward County. We don't have sufficient funding to do a good number of them,'' Kaplan said. ``Every city has its priority and every city can give a very good argument why their problem should be a priority item.''

Improvements city officials hope will be completed next year include adding an eastbound lane on Pines from Flamingo to Hiatus and extending turn lanes at the intersection. The city will pay about $5.7 million up front and will later be reimbursed by the state. Pembroke Lakes Mall is pitching in $1 million in part to pay for work at mall entrances on Pines.

Among various alternatives, FDOT appears to be leaning toward an overpass along Pines above Flamingo Road.

Small-business owners worry that customers will avoid the area during the three or so years of construction. FDOT hopes to keep all lanes open during construction, though it might be reduced by one lane in each direction.

John Scinicariello said he plans to move his business, which is near the intersection, before construction starts. He is in negotiations for a spot in Cooper City.

''I go through the intersection five, six times per day,'' said Scinicariello, the owner of John the Baker. What's the big deal? You may have to wait a couple of lights?''

But Irving Winer, a member of the condo association board at nearby Century Village, said the traffic is so terrible he tries to avoid the intersection. He hopes the planned overpass will alleviate some congestion.

''Anything that relieves traffic I'm for,'' he said.

Once transportation officials agree on a plan, they must come up with up to $30 million.

The federal government gives money for road projects to the Metropolitan Planning Organization, whose board of local elected officials ranks projects.

When ranking projects, the MPO considers a variety of factors such as safety, community support and impact on tourism. It doesn't take into account crash statistics because it lacks a complete database of crashes -- something it hopes to create next year.

The MPO places a higher priority on mass transit, bicycle and pedestrian projects than on highway projects such as Pines and Flamingo.

The MPO has ranked the intersection 43rd on a list of projects it hopes to complete by 2025 but doesn't have the money for. In the spring, the MPO will create a new ranking based on its 2030 plan.

If local officials find money for a project they could likely convince the MPO to move it up as former Pines Mayor Alex Fekete did with the Pembroke Road overpass.

Mayor Frank Ortis isn't ready to take a position on the best option for fixing the intersection but said he wants to see the roadwork done ``as soon as we can.''

Commissioner William Armstrong, 78, jokes that he'll be well over 100 by the time the project is done.

``We probably will be traveling by a different mode of transportation if they do it by 2030. We may do it by airlift vehicles and we won't need the roadways.''

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Here's the intersection that State Farm rated the nation's most dangerous:

pinesblvdzoomout7ld.jpg

A little closer:

pinesblvd5iv.jpg

NW corner: C.B. Smith Park (a nice County park)

SE corner: strip mall (Sprint PCS, Petsmart, Barnes and Noble, Bed Bath & Beyond, etc)

SW corner: strip mall (Publix, Eckerd/CVS, McDonald's, Bank of America, Boston Market, Mobil)

NE corner: Pembroke Lakes Mall, Memorial Hospital West

The intersection is very busy. Each direction has:

  • two left-turn lanes

  • three through-traffic lanes

  • one right-turn lane

The traffic signals are mounted high on span-wires. Florida doesn't require mast-arm traffic signals unless the intersection is within 10 miles of the coast. It's far enough inland that it isn't required. The portion of Pines Blvd west of Flamingo Rd is 8 lanes, but on the eastbound side the far-right through-lane suddenly turns into a right-turn lane, turning into 6 lanes. This is arguably part of the cause of many accidents at this intersection, notwithstanding the fact that it's very busy, period.

To the west of this intersection is Interstate 75, apartments, strip malls, the retirement community of Century Village, and thousands of single-family homes.

To the east is more commercial strips, Pembroke Lakes Mall, more housing, apartments, etc. Pembroke Pines is Broward's Kendall.

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Posted on Tue, Jan. 11, 2005

PEMBROKE PINES

City leaders bid to bankroll overpass

Voters may get the chance in March to decide whether they want to raise their taxes to pay for a variety of projects, including an overpass at Pines Boulevard and Flamingo Road.

BY AMY SHERMAN

[email protected]

Pembroke Pines leaders may ask for residents' approval to borrow millions of dollars to speed up plans for an overpass at the congested intersection of Pines Boulevard and Flamingo Road.

City commissioners say fast-tracking the overpass, which is now slated for construction sometime between 2011 and 2030, is a major reason why they are talking about putting a bond referendum on the March 8 ballot.

Mayor Frank Ortis said the referendum also could generate money for a teen center, senior housing, redevelopment and renovations to the Pembroke Lakes Golf and Racquet Club.

The City Commission will meet at 5 p.m. Thursday to discuss the proposed referendum, how much to borrow and what projects to include.

City officials are talking about posing one question on the ballot rather than several separate questions for each category of project.

Pembroke Pines must finalize the maximum amount of money the city plans to borrow by Jan. 18 in order for the Broward County Supervisor of Elections to print the ballots in time for the March 8 election.

The ballot question can be general about the projects. For example, it could mention roadwork without mentionning specific roads.

Ortis and Commissioner Bill Armstrong expressed support for the referendum. Commissioners Angelo Castillo, Ben Fiorendino and Iris Siple said they are undecided.

Ortis is meeting with county and state transportation officials this week to discuss the city paying for the overpass through the referendum and then later getting reimbursed by the state.

Broward County's transportation board has ranked the intersection project 43rd out of 49 on a list of projects it hopes to complete by 2025 but doesn't have the money yet.

In 2001, State Farm insurance called the Pines-Flamingo intersection, which is near several shopping centers, the most dangerous in the country.

The Florida Department of Transportation has proposed an overpass to handle the heavy traffic but even after its built it will still likely be an ''F'' road.

If the city provides the money upfront for the overpass this year, the soonest it could be completed is 2009, said Beatriz Caicedo-Maddison, FDOT project manager.

Ortis proposed holding a referendum at last week's City Commission meeting, following a December workshop during which commissioners discussed several projects they would like to see get built.

If residents vote ''yes'' on a tax increase, the city will issue bonds to be paid back over several years, possibly 30.

The projects would show up on a separate item on tax bills starting as early as October.

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