Monday, February 25, 2008
Help Me Howard: Lane Blocked
Have you ever driven down the road and wondered why a lane of traffic is blocked? Now, imagine one lane of a busy road blocked and used for parking for construction workers. Well, you don't have to imagine that in South Florida. We can show it to you and tell you if it's legal. Let's bring in Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Freddie and Juan are neighbors who both own condos in a beautiful building on Miami Beach, Collins Avenue.
Juan Dominguez: "We believe it's a great place. It's been a great place except for the past two years."
Two years ago, the trouble began when one lane of Collins was closed for two blocks from 61st Street to 63rd Street, while the flyover bridge was taken down and the new 63rd Street intersection built.
Juan Dominguez: "First, because of the bridge, which we understood, no problem."
But the project is finished, the intersection was completed, and the one lane is still closed.
Freddie Enriguez: "It's been finished for over a year. Not only this lane here, that corner should be opened right away."
You can't turn left from Collins at the 63rd Street intersection because this lane is still closed. Now, let me make one thing perfectly clear, the lane of Collins that is closed is being used as a parking lot.
Juan Dominguez: "It has been kept closed by a private contractor using this lane as their own parking lot."
And as we watch them, at 5:00, the construction workers from a nearby building left. Within a few minutes, the closed lane was empty but still closed.
Juan Dominguez: "I believe the reason is they don't want to have to put up the safety cones in the morning."
One lane closed all day and used for parking and closed all night and empty.
Freddie Enriguez: "The only thing that is here at night is the safety cones. Nobody can go through here."
Closed 24 hours a day even on the weekends.
Freddie Enriguez: "It's still blocked. This lane is blocked. The corner is still blocked."
The result, the neighbors say, a constant headache.
Juan Dominguez: "And at 5:00 you can't move. The people are horning and the whole place is a mess. It's really bad."
Not only is it irritating to see a lane closed and used by workers for parking, the men say it has been dangerous.
Juan Dominguez: "And all of them said it's the other one's problem, and we can't get to anybody. That's why we called you, to see if we can get some help."
Help to find out can a lane of traffic be closed so construction workers have a place to park, and who decides when to close a road and when to open it, Mr. Finkelstein?
Howard Finkelstein: "The agency that maintains a road can close the road or select lanes for any legitimate reason. For example, to do a traffic study, to protect the public from falling debris, but using it as a parking lot is not a legitimate use, and it could be dangerous as well."
Collins Avenue is maintained by the Florida Department of Transportation. They told me Miami Beach asked them to keep this lane closed, so the city could conduct a traffic study.
When I spoke to the city engineer, he told me they were not aware it was being used for parking all day. That was stopped immediately. Also they don't call the lane closed they call it "merging" that it was being used to improve the flow of traffic coming in from 63rd Street, that the cones were there to make sure traffic flows safely.
Monday Morning we were told the study was completed and determined traffic would flow better if the lane stayed as a merging lane, in other words, stay closed, but the city added nothing will be done without discussing it with the people of Miami Beach first.
And while we are discussing the laws on closing lanes, every day you see government agencies block traffic to pick up garbage or waste or whatever. Can a city worker randomly do that?
Howard Finkelstein: "You see this all the time. You may be surprised, but, yes, they can. Government agencies have great power to protect the public's safety, even if that involved inconveniencing people and occasionally blocking traffic and irritating them."
Once again we find out the government has a lot of power, and we the people, well, we get to pay their salaries.
Patrick Fraser: "Now, the recommendation to keep the lane the way it is has to go to the Florida Department of Transportation, they control Collins Avenue and have to agree to keep that lane closed. If you have an opinion one way or the other, when the city meets with residents to discuss it, you might want to go to make sure you are heard."
Your path blocked by a street called "denial"? Need someone to clear the way? You don't have to weave through cones to call us. Our road to recovery is paved with success.
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