Monday, December 29, 2014

What can we do about wrong way incursions?

First of all I would like to wish all of our visitors a very Merry Christmas and a very prosperous 2015!  I cannot believe it, 2014 has come and gone just like that.

Unfortunately, 2014 for Interstate 275 in the Tampa Bay region has been beset by not one or two but so many incidents of incursions by wrong way drivers - drivers going the wrong direction on Interstate 275, either southbound in the northbound lanes or northbound in the southbound lanes.  Either way, these incidents are approaching an alarming trend!

In fact, as I am writing this entry I heard of yet another wrong way incident on Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg, according to ABC Action News.  A driver fleeing a traffic stop somehow entered Interstate 275 at 54 Av N (Exit 26) going southbound in the northbound lanes.  The driver got off at 38 Av N (Exit 25) but somehow abandoned the vehicle somewhere and fled on foot; luckily St. Petersburg Police arrested the driver on numerous charges.  Luckily only minor injuries were reported according to the ABC Action News article.

How can we stop this alarming trend of motorists going the wrong way on Interstate 275?  For starters, most of Interstate 275 in the Tampa Bay region is separated by either double sided guardrail or by Jersey Barrier Wall which prevents motorists from going to the other side of Interstate 275 in the wrong direction on the Interstate 275 mainline proper.

Then you got your signage on the Interstate 275 ramps, especially the Do Not Enter/Wrong Way signage placed by the Florida DOT in accordance with the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, the handbook published by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) as the Bible of all traffic control devices in the United States including proper placement of signage.  Wrong way signage begins with Do Not Enter/Wrong Way signage placed at the end of the exit ramp facing motorists going in the wrong direction.  Halfway between the cross street and the main line a set of Wrong Way signage flanks either side of the ramp, again facing motorists going in the wrong direction.

At some rural interchanges on Interstate 75, particularly at Exit 293 (CR 41 to Dade City in Pasco County), there is installed a set of red lights and an alarm bell on the off ramps to warn motorists twofold:  One for motorists going in the correct direction that a motorist has entered the highway in the wrong direction and another facing the motorist actually going in the wrong direction.

Just recently the Florida DOT installed enhanced Wrong Way signage at Exit 51 from Interstate 275 (that's Fowler Avenue, FL 582) on the northbound exit ramp onto Fowler Avenue.  Not only there are Wrong Way signs, there are red lights that surround the signs themselves which are activated upon a motorist going the wrong direction.

But what does all that Do Not Enter/Wrong Way signage - even the signage supplemented by red traffic signals and audible alarms - do when motorists ignore the signage and dangerously go the wrong way on Interstate 275?  At the rate these wrong way incidents are taking place, it is a matter of time before a wrong way incident becomes a major Interstate 275 pileup resulting in needless serious injury and/or property damage, not to mention needless lives lost.

Well, I think I may have the solution to the ever growing problem of wrong way movements on Interstate 275 in the Tampa Bay region.  The answer is here and in two parts.  But please let me emphasize this is only a suggestion.

1.  Install resistance type gates similar to what is found on the reversible express lanes of the Selmon Crosstown Expressway.  If a motorist enters Interstate 275 in the wrong direction an alarm would sound accompanied by flashing red lights alerting motorists of a wrong way driver.  Within seconds the resistance type gates would lower onto the width of the exit ramp preventing the wrong way driver from entering the Interstate 275 mainline.  However, there is a trade-off as far as the motorist going the correct direction is concerned:  Motorists would have to stop when the gates lower.  Sure it would be an inconvenience, but there is a bigger dividend when lives are saved.  Variable message signs in the vicinity of where the motorist entered Interstate 275 in the wrong direction would warn motorists going in the correct direction of the incident taking place and to advise exiting Interstate 275 at another exit close by.

2.  Install tire spikes similar to the tire spikes found in parking garages but the tire spikes would be constructed in ground.  Normal operation would be for the spikes to be retracted in the ground but upon detection of a wrong way driver flashing red lights would go off alerting motorists of the situation at hand and the spikes would raise which would severely damage the tires of a wrong way motorist.  (Motorists going the correct direction would not be affected).  I would supplement this with regular railroad crossing style gates which would lower at the same time the spikes go up.  Again variable message signs in the vicinity of the incident would warn and advise motorists to use an alternate exit close by.

Sure the Florida DOT can do only so much to try to prevent incidents of wrong way entry onto Interstate 275.  But I feel much more can be done here than just signage and signals.

This is what I think from a layman's point of view as to how incidents of wrong way driving on Interstate 275 can be reduced or even eliminated.  Yes there could be a lot of pitfalls from a liability standpoint but what can you do to prevent wrong way incursions onto Interstate 275?

If you got a better idea to help reduce or even eliminate wrong way incursions on Interstate 275 in the Tampa Bay region I want to hear from you.  You can sound off by leaving a comment, but please keep the comments clean.