If you’ve ever crossed Colonial Drive as a pedestrian at night or have been nearly hit by a car in the day you know how dangerous the trek can be crossing the hospital access road. To this end, city officials approved plans for a pedestrian-activated crosswalk signal, along with traffic calming measures on the high-volume street. _______________
The problems are twofold on Colonial Drive, say hospital officials. Speeding motorists and bad visibility in an area crossed frequently on foot by hospital staff, patients and visitors where there is no light or no stop sign. Additionally, the road doubles as an entrance to motorists in the Coral Cay community. The hospital recently reported a pedestrian-meets-car incident when a staff member was wounded earlier in the month.
“What they want the city to do is make it safe for them to walk across,” said Ruzzano of Northwest Medical Center, the hub of healthcare in Margate and an HCA hospital with millions invested in the city. “And they’re investing [more],” he added of $60 million-plus approved last year by HCA for a six-floor parking garage and two more floors at Northwest.
Ruzzano said he preferred to have a stop light for traffic at the location, but mid-block stop lights and crosswalks are frowned on by the county and state and involve a more complex planning process than a pedestrian crosswalk.
“I don’t know if this is the answer. I think we need a [traffic] light there to make people stop,” Ruzzano said.
While traffic planners at the county and state level might offer some resistance to a crosswalk, said Public Works Director, Sam May, “It doesn’t mean we can’t do it,” May told MargateNews.net of the city-owned road.
May’s recommendation is to deploy a pedestrian-activated LightGuard System at the crossing. With a push of a button, signs light up and lights in the road flicker, notifying motorists that a pedestrian is crossing the street. May said such a system could be deployed in 2-3 months.
“It is traffic calming that works when somebody is there, and doesn’t rely on costly law enforcement,” said traffic engineer for Keith & Associates, Steve Williams, of crosswalk capabilities. “Enforcement is only good if an officer is present.”
Keith & Associates was hired to engineer the safe crossing, and to manage the project when the city awards the contract.
The system would supplement plans recently approved by city officials to calm speeders by placing a tightly hedged landscape median down the center of the street between the State Road 7 Intersection and low-brow crosswalk currently used by pedestrians (see concept drawing below)
The cost of the project is roughly $130,000 plus permits and oversight. Elected officials also approved $37,000 in consulting fees to which Commissioner Anthony Caggiano questioned $9,000 of “observation” costs.
“Out of $37,000 it seems like we’re spending $9,000 just to watch,” Caggiano said of the nearly 25% supervisory fee. “It seemed to me to be a significant percentage of the actual job to have people watching people you hired to actually do the job.”
Williams said observation fees are to ensure that contractors don’t cut corners and that work is completed in accordance with plans. The fee ensures that contractors are bonded and not overpaid, and that work is certified.
“Is that a problem you usually have with the people you hire?" asked Caggiano, "Someone who has the permits in front of them knowing what the scope of the work is going to be?”
Ruzzano asked how many site visits are included in observational fees to which Williams replied that visits coincide with the inspection schedule of contractors.
A contractor himself by trade, Ruzzano told MargateNews.net that cities like Coral Springs, Parkland and Tamarac - where his company, Ruzzano Construction, has been awarded contracts - don’t use consultants to supervise similar work..
“Margate loves to hire consultants,” Ruzzano said, adding that he believes city staff should consider overseeing jobs themselves instead of farming out the work. “That’s what other cities do.”
City commissioner, Lesa Peerman, advised that the hedge on the median should be lush enough to discourage people from crossing mid-street, and Vice Mayor, Arlene Schwartz, expressed concerns about a lack of enforcement in the absence of a traffic light.
Per Keith & Associates, the amount of pedestrian traffic at the Colonial Drive location does not meet the required warrants for a stop light (450 pedestrians at peak hour). Concerns were additionally expressed about stopping traffic completely for longer-than-necessary periods in an area used frequently by emergency vehicles.
“When you go the full stop light, it is very difficult. Not a simple solution,” Williams said.
Caggiano suggested speed bumps to slow motorists down.
“You know it's there when you hit it,” he said.
Elected officials unanimously approved pedestrian upgrades to Colonial Drive in the following substantial form:
* Provide an approximately 10' wide median with a pedestrian refuge area at the point where the majority of pedestrian crossings occur. New trees will be planted within the median. * Provide hedges along the hospital property and the property to the south to discourage pedestrians from crossing at other locations * Eliminate one of two westbound travel lanes in the subject area * Increase the vehicular stacking area in the eastbound left turn lane (which currently backs up periodically) * Install two (2) flashing pedestrian signs * Provide additional sidewalks, traffic markings and curbing modifications.