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Push for Cheval light probably a dead end

LUTZ — Frustrated in past attempts to get a traffic signal installed at N Dale Mabry Highway and Cheval Boulevard, Hillsborough County commissioners are making the state a new offer.

Install the light, commissioners wrote the Florida Department of Transportation last week, and we'll help pay for it.

"It's such a dangerous intersection that we're willing to partner with DOT on the construction costs," County Commission chairman Ken Hagan said.

The county's request notes that Sheriff David Gee agrees with the commissioners that increased traffic is a hazard to drivers and pedestrians.

State transportation officials will consider the request and look at the numbers, but the offer of a partnership "wouldn't matter," DOT spokeswoman Kris Carson said.

The sticking point, she said, is not the cost. It's the need.

DOT officials don't see one, and they've looked.

In 2004.

In 2005.

And in June of this year.

"We've studied this intersection many times," Carson said. But none of the ways that traffic moves through the intersection justify a signal, she said.

For example, on June 25, the DOT counted the number of left turns made out of Cheval going north onto Dale Mabry from 8 to 9 a.m. and from 3 to 4 p.m.

In the morning, drivers made 14 left turns out of Cheval. In the afternoon, they made 15. Those numbers are consistent with those from the 2004 and 2005 studies, , Carson said.

State standards require at least 53 left turns per hour to justify putting a signal at an intersection, Carson said.

The state also has looked at whether traffic is heavy enough coming out of Calusa Trace, just to the south, to justify a signal.

"They had twice the left turns that Cheval does, and they still do not meet the standards," Carson said.

About 47,000 cars and trucks a day use that part of N Dale Mabry. From January 2004 to December 2007, the DOT has records of 14 crashes at the entrance to Cheval.

Of those, Carson said, three were accidents that a stoplight might have prevented. Those crashes include ones where one driver turns into the path of an oncoming car. They do not include rear-end collisions, which Carson said could become even more common with a signal. Many studies have shown that putting a signal where it's not needed can cause the flow of traffic to deteriorate, leading more drivers to hit the vehicle ahead of them in stop-and-go traffic.

"If we install a signal where it's not justified, it's going to lead to an increase in congestion, and it can contribute to an increase in crashes," Carson said. "We just studied this in June. I cannot imagine it would be any different in August."

Richard Danielson can be reached at danielson@sptimes.com or 269-5311.

Push for Cheval light probably a dead end 08/28/08 [Last modified: Thursday, August 28, 2008 4:30am]
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