TREASURE ISLAND — Despite an expert's report that a city intersection is dangerous, the City Commission disagreed and declined last week to pay for installing a traffic light.
The intersection in question is the convergence of 104th, 107th and 108th avenues, locally referred to as the St. James intersection, named for a nearby condominium tower.
A report submitted by Jim Murphy, the city's public works director, described the intersection as "a significant junction in the routing of traffic entering and leaving the city."
Two truck routes and the city's main business street converge at angles and have always been prone to accidents. But the completion of the city's new bridge to the mainland and the removal of tolls has increased the amount of traffic — and the likelihood of accidents, Murphy said.
More than 20,000 cars went through the intersection on one Saturday in April. Cars sometimes waited nearly a minute to get through the intersection and on occasion were stacked five vehicles deep during that wait.
Of the some 40 accidents at the intersection in the past three years, a third are attributed to the lack of a traffic signal, Murphy told the commission.
A study conducted in 2004 called for the installation of a traffic light. The then-sitting commission voted unanimously to install the light. However, a year later traffic signal design was tabled.
A new traffic study done in April 2010 again recommended the traffic signal, citing an increase in traffic and accidents. The study also noted that several pedestrian crossing signs were missing, a stop sign was faded and difficult to see, and wheelchair access and crosswalks needed to be reconfigured.
Navigating from 108th Avenue onto the Treasure Island Causeway (107th Avenue) is dangerous, according to Domingo Noriega, the traffic engineer who supervised the study.
Vehicles are forced to cross the westbound lane of 107th Avenue and then wait in a small area in the middle of the intersection to merge into eastbound traffic.
"This situation is unsafe," Noriega told the commission during a workshop last week. "You have a safety problem there and have an accident every month."
He said a traffic signal would fix the problem, adding that other options are "not deemed appropriate."
Nonetheless, the commission refused to put installation of a traffic signal in its next budget, despite being told by City Manager Reid Silverboard that the $250,000 needed is available.
"I am opposed," said Commissioner Phil Collins. "We have a 25 mph speed limit and speed bumps. It is harder and harder for people to get to work. I don't see the need for a light there."
Commissioner Carol Coward also opposed the traffic signal, even though she agreed that the intersection is dangerous.
"I truly don't think a light will stop anything," she said. "People just come racing through there and will run the red light. I don't think I would go for it."
Commissioner Alan Bildz suggested the city might redesign the intersection rather than install a light.
Murphy said since 104th and 107th are designated truck routes, redesigning the intersection might be "impractical." He also questioned ongoing safety for pedestrians and bicyclists trying to navigate the intersection without the assistance of a traffic signal.
When the commission refused to add the traffic signal to next year's budget, Silverboard said he would remove the $250,000 and substitute whatever money is needed to redesign the intersection.