Tuesday, January 7, 2020

South Dade Updates Guest Blog- view of the 12/12/2019 Palmetto Bay / Miami-Dade County conflict resolution proceeding by Jay Wolever

Before I get started I want to address the critics that will be curious of why I am guest writing on the former Mayor’s blog. I want to avoid the controversy, bickering, and downright negativity that I feel is plaguing our tiny community today so my opinions are my own, not his, not Karyn’s or any other person in Palmetto Bay.

So what bothered me? The December 12th meeting at the point the Mayor turned it over to the Village Attorney became a disaster. The Village Attorney was not acting professionally and criticized some very talented PEs (Professional Engineers (PE) are licensed in their practice to design). In a mediation, both sides present their argument and their solutions then come together to compromise or impasse. Engineers by trade are problem solvers. The problem here is that when traffic is backed up heading north on 87th and you are heading west on 174th your view of southbound traffic is impeded so if you are crossing 87th or turning left, you have a higher risk of being t-boned. The solutions are installing a Traffic Control Device (TCD). All engineers are bound to design problem solutions based on the law and existing standards. In this case there are many organizations that create the standards for which a design may be based and most likely in this case it would be the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) who study, design and make recommendations to governments to which design criteria (Codification of Law) are created. This code is managed by the Federal Highway Administration and is referred to as the MUTCD or Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. The MUTCD is the law under 23 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 655.

To install a TCD, a licensed engineer has to study the problem, confirm there is a risk, and create a design that mitigates that risk. In my practice, I use what is known as a residual hazard identification protocol to determine the mean time between events and what methods are available to mitigate unacceptable or undesirable risks (there is a formula). In this case it is much more simple as that work has already been done by the Federal Government and the ASCE. You will note that members of the council, the Village Attorney, and acting Manager referred to a traffic study performed at that intersection. The Vice Mayor referred to every study performed by the DTPW being wrong citing the 82nd/168th avenue circle as an example of malpractice. He pointed to adaptive traffic mapping applications such as WAZE and that traffic studies done in Miami-Dade County do not account for these apps and therefore are void. To my knowledge this software is not widely fielded and classified as not useful because adaptive mapping only has a temporary effect. However, the main point that the representatives made was that they didn’t do a traffic study that predicts traffic patterns. They looked at the existing traffic count (the cars on the roadway no matter how they got there) and existing risks and determined the appropriate TCD for that application. In this case, a stop sign carried more risk than not having a stop sign. So they looked at the alternatives which were “do not block the box” (if cars move far enough forward, the westbound traffic can see around them and be at a lesser risk of being hit by southbound traffic) or install a traffic circle which the DTPW offered to pay to install. The code (law) says the municipality cannot install a stop sign at that intersection because based on actual data (not modeling) it is more dangerous. The danger being people blocking the intersection and people rolling through the stop sign during non-peak periods.

So why is there a stop sign there now? It starts at a culmination of two different issues, first is the traffic problem in Malbrook and the need to install no right turn signs and the second is an accident that occurred where a car was hit and careened into one of our neighbors’ yards with injuries. Marlin Engineering has completed a traffic study and the Village was coordinating with the county and Marlin to find a method that allows the no right turn signs and keeps the traffic from backing up into Cutler Bay (Remember Cutler Bay had demanded the no right turn signs be removed). Marlin said that they cannot mitigate the traffic problem but they could “que up” traffic so that it did not impede Cutler Bay traffic. Basically they were going to stack cars up in Palmetto Bay on 87th and 168th by adding a second lane on the 87th/168th circle similar to the turbo lane on 87th and Old Cutler road and extending that lane on 168th to the little bridge and stopping there. So the 87th/168th quagmire would still exist but it would double the cars that would be in the intersection and reduce the backup on 87th down to Eureka. The solution to the problem on 174th and 87th was to add a traffic circle. This combined project, the turbo lane on 87th/168th, the second lane eastbound on 168th from 87th to the bridge, and the 87th/174th traffic circle were proposed as a plan to the county that the Village would perform at a cost of over half a million dollars with no contributions from the state or county. The county accepted this proposal from the Village and allowed the temporary installation of the stop sign at the 87th/174th intersection in lieu of installing the traffic circle. One small problem, that solution wasn’t brought before the council for a vote and the electorate of Palmetto Bay did not want to stomach a half million dollars on a useless traffic mitigation project. It died and the County said by law we have to remove the stop sign.

So you have an attorney that looks at three licensed Professional Engineers demandingly and says that “their book” doesn’t take into account the reality of what the residents face daily. He says that the engineers are not putting the safety of the residents first but aren’t the engineers putting safety first and is the Village insisting on leaving a TCD in place that is a higher risk than the alternative? The attorney is right in that the MUTCD doesn’t take the safety of Palmetto Bay residents into consideration, it takes into consideration the entirety of the travelling public within the jurisdiction of the US Federal Government. In my opinion that mediation puts Palmetto Bay at risk of losing any ability to have professional meetings with the DTPW.

This year will bring us a new Village Manager, a new Village Council combined with the newly appointed Village Attorney. I feel we have lost our ability to negotiate deals that benefit Village residents, is courteous of our neighbors, and takes advantage of what developers can offer without sacrificing land that we should be preserving and our precious family time in traffic. We should be working with Cutler Bay as they are fighting to keep development smart, as we should be with Homestead and all our neighbors. Pinecrest, Palmetto Bay, Cutler Bay and Homestead make up a powerful voting block across different County Commission Districts and State Legislative seats if we get together and fight for transit solutions, and infrastructure improvements. Traffic is not Palmetto Bay’s crises, it is a symptom of the crisis of not being neighborly.

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