Dade City getting traffic signal at U.S. 98-301 intersection
DADE CITY -
Dot Cady believes anyone willing to go through the intersection at U.S. 98 and U.S. 301 in Dade City is putting their life at risk.
“We live on 98 and have to go out to 301,” said Cady, the homeowners association president of Southfork Retirement Community, a short distance from the intersection. “Our only choice is to either go left or right (on 301). … Turning left to go to Zephyrhills is like Russian roulette and that's where the majority of accidents have happened.”
Heeding that warning, the Florida Department of Transportation has agreed to place a traffic signal at the intersection.
“The latest traffic counts and crash data support the need for a signal,” DOT spokeswoman Kristen Carson said in an email. “We will work to get the temporary signal (wood poles) installed as quickly as possible, before the end of the year, if not sooner.”
The agency conducted two separate counts — one in February and another in March — to determine the number of cars that made turns from U.S. 98 onto U.S. 301. It was determined that between 55 and 81 vehicles per hour made the left turn.
The minimum requirement to have a traffic signal erected is 53 per hour. That is the standard set by the Federal Highway Administration's Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.
Data was looked at from January 2009 through December 2012 and officials reached the conclusion that an average of 2.5 accidents during that time could have been prevented with a traffic signal.
“A signal will increase delays in the area, however it will also significantly increase the safety of the intersection,” Carson said.
A catalyst of the project was the September death of Edward Young, a Southfork resident. On Aug. 23, Young was driving his 2011 Ford Fiesta with his wife of 57 years, Sally, in the passenger seat. They were on their way to dinner.
About 7:14 p.m., as Edward Young attempted to turn left into the southbound lanes of U.S. 301 from U.S. 98, his car was struck by a northbound 2001 Saturn, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
Edward Young was taken to Lakeland Regional Medical Center, where he died from his injuries on Sept. 21. He was 81.
Sally Young no longer lives at the retirement community and now resides at an assisted-living facility.
The wreck remains under investigation, but the report states Young “failed to yield the right-of-way.”
Cady said there was another accident at the intersection in which a man, who didn't live in a nearby retirement community, pulled onto U.S. 301 and in front of a motorcyclist. The motorcyclist collided with the car and was thrown several feet off the bike. Cady was told the driver of the car was 86 and should not have been driving.
“Us senior citizens, most of us know our limitations and if there had been a red light, we would have stopped,” she said.
The intersection's history is a perilous one.
In March, there were three accidents in which Cady went out to the scene and gathered information from what she witnessed.
The deadly history goes back to July 5, 1994, when former Dade City fire captain David Lavon Tinsley, 53, was killed when his car slammed into a tractor-trailer at the intersection.
At the time, a Florida Highway Patrol report said the driver of the tractor-trailer, Myrna Elaine Horner of Peru, Iowa, was attempting to make a U-turn at the intersection from the southbound lanes of U.S. 301 into the northbound lanes. She momentarily stopped, blocking traffic heading north, reports said. Tinsley, who was driving north in his 1988 Ford station wagon, drove underneath the trailer. Tinsley died at the scene.
Because of her position with the homeowners association, Cady is one of the first to hear if anything takes place at the problematic intersection just a mile away from the retirement community.
“As soon as they see an accident at that intersection,” Cady said, “my phone rings and people end up at my door to tell me there's an accident down there.”
Members of her community, as well as those from three other nearby retirement mobile home parks, started a petition in 2005, which did not result in a traffic signal. But following Young's death the group resumed its efforts with another petition in November.
Although the push for a light is deemed a success, Cady, a transplant from Scarborough, Maine, wants something much sooner than the end of 2013.
“We do a lot of things here in our park for our residents,” she said. “We have a very active community, but those are things that come and go. … When we get that traffic light down there, it's going to be a real great sense of accomplishment. Not only for residents, but the other three parks and everybody that travels 301. That is a bad intersection.”