ECB Publishing, Inc.
For the last several months, Monticelloians have had to negotiate around construction on our streets through downtown. With the project nearing completion, complaints have come in from citizens regarding safety concerns. Both the City of Monticello and the Chamber of Commerce have received objections to the bulb-out style of curbs installed recently.
To address the problem, Katrina Richardson, Executive Director of the Monticello-Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, asked for a meeting with the city and Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to discuss the concerns. FDOT is primarily responsible for the work and has contracted AECOM to do the work. AECOM is a Los Angeles based multinational infrastructure firm, delivering professional services for various projects around the world. The company’s website states that they are “planners, designers, engineers, consultants and construction managers.”
The reason the old sidewalks have been dug up and replaced with new models, according to City Manager Raymond Clark, was to make them Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant and help slow traffic speeds around the courthouse. Ian Setter, FDOT Public Information Officer for the project, added that the bulb-out sidewalks also provide a better refuge for pedestrians crossing the street. While the bulb-out sidewalks seem to have the desired effect on speed safety and shorten the time it takes pedestrians to cross the street, they have created another issue.
The bulb-out sidewalks have narrowed the roads at intersections, which causes turning vehicles to cross over into the oncoming lane. As city officials, chamber members, AECOM employees and concerned citizens watched passing traffic, two vehicles turning right onto westbound Washington Street crossed slightly into the eastbound lane. It was only by a few inches but had there been a vehicle in the eastbound lane, a collision was a genuine possibility.
Some of the area school bus drivers have also expressed concern about the extremely narrow space they have in which to make turns, particularly right-hand turns. Given the large number of tractor-trailers that come through town, collisions between 18-wheelers passing each other are also a concern.
Of particular concern is the intersection of Waukeenah and Washington Streets. Nathan and Hayley Peeler, who live nearby and frequently walk with their children in a stroller, remarked that the new configuration forces them further out towards traffic. In contrast, the previous design kept them further from Washington Street and thus safer when crossing Waukeenah Street.
City Manager Clark and engineers are studying the problem to determine the best solution for pedestrians and motorists’ safety. This is an instance where solving one problem (traffic speed around the courthouse) has created other issues (narrow passing space and pedestrian safety).