Road planning involves a complex mix of issues, including sometimes conflicting issues of safety and convenience. Additionally, planning questions may pit the interests of one group against another (ex. those using a roadway to drive through an area versus those who live in the area and are looking to get on/off of the road). We often hear about highway danger zones where accidents occur with startling regularity. Crash victims may become safety advocates, campaigning for changes in road layout or other road planning matters, using the story of past accidents to help prevent future tragedies.
Residents who live in an area off of Highway 77 are, according to a report by WMBB News 13, advocating for changes to the roads they travel on a daily basis. Drivers who live in the Mill Creek neighborhood are asking for a median access point closer to their neighborhood that would enable them to cross over to the other side of the Highway.
One resident described the difficulties of the current traffic arrangements to reporters, beginning with the lack of a pull-out area allowing drivers to merge easily onto the road where traffic often travels in excess of 70 miles per hour. She then has to drive up the road a good distance before making a U-turn, a risky maneuver both because drivers may not see her signaling to initiate the turn and she then has to rejoin high-speed traffic. Another resident proposed the addition of turn lanes and median access at the point where the Mill Creek community joins Highway 77. Mill Creek includes approximately 45 homes, and there are also homes on the other side of the highway in White Oaks that face the same issues in the opposite direction.
Past campaigns for a median access point were unsuccessful. Ian Satter, a Public Information Officer for the Florida Department of Transportation, notes that the arrangement of the roads leading into Mill Creek and White Oaks make the issue particularly challenging. He adds that a decision would require weighing the safety interests of the residents as well as all of the travelers who use Highway 77 on a daily basis. Satter also explained that the process for changing the median set-up would be lengthy, and that the review would start with the Florida Department of Transportation's ("FDOT") Panama City office and include a public hearing.
An FDOT manual from 2006 calls medians and median openings "some of the most important features in a safe and efficient highway system." The manual, which discusses a range of median-related safety issues, is often fairly technical and serves as an indicator of the numerous principles and standards involved in median-planning decisions. Factors involved in median construction and access decisions include sight distance, deceleration needs, U-turn safety considerations, and road types.
Working with people injured in car accidents, we sometimes find disturbing trends that point to a failure in highway planning. In some cases, this failure may be severe enough to warrant a claim against the bodies responsible for planning decisions. Such claims require the input of an expert consultant who understands highway planning matters.
Attorney Pittman has worked with experts throughout his 30-year career, and he has experience partnering with them to build a case. Call to arrange a meeting to discuss how we can help you with your case, as well as to help prevent future accidents resulting from dangerous highway planning decisions.