In 2014, Gresham Smith expanded its Transportation presence to our Tampa office, supporting the continued expansion of our Transportation practice throughout the state, and building on our existing relationship with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). Since then, our Tampa Transportation practice has grown from a one-person operation, headed by my colleague, Jay Bockisch, to a full-service Transportation office.
In 2016, I joined our Tampa office, bringing my past experience in access management, traffic operations, safety and intelligent transportation system plans to the Tampa Transportation group. As part of a five-year, on-call safety contract between Gresham Smith and FDOT, one of my duties is serving as an on-site extension of FDOT’s Traffic Operations department, focusing on access management and safety for FDOT’s District 7.
In this post, I highlight two key safety-focused projects that our Tampa Transportation practice has executed for FDOT, supporting their “Vision Zero” strategy to eliminate all road traffic fatalities.
Safety at the Crossroads
A number of trends are influencing the transportation environment in Florida. For example, an increase in licensed drivers aged 65 and older, as well as a projected increase in the state’s population and the number of visitors to the region. What this ultimately means is increased pressure on Florida’s transportation system in the coming years. This will present a challenge in terms of trying to balance mobility and accessibility, which will extend to the state’s arterial roadways that serve as the primary means for accommodating both local and regional trips.
Because of this, FDOT’s District 7 Access Management and Safety group felt the need to evaluate both unsignalized and signalized high-crash locations along the State Highway system in District 7. In 2017, our Tampa Transportation practice was selected by FDOT to evaluate 100 high-crash, unsignalized intersections throughout the district. These high-crash locations were originally determined based on crash data from 2013 to 2015 from the District 7 Web Crash Data Management System, with a focus on the Severity Index (which emphasizes fatal and injury crashes rather than the number of crashes) in determining these locations.
With the Severity Index as a starting point, our team identified potential solutions at the high-crash locations, prioritizing safety improvements over a short-term, mid-term and long-term horizon. One such location was State Route 60 at Pauls Drive, in which we identified a number of existing deficiencies that contributed to rear-end and left-turn crashes as well as sideswipe collisions at this intersection. As a result of our recommendations, numerous improvements will be implemented along this often-dangerous state corridor. This includes channelizing median openings and improving multimodal accommodations to reduce the number of conflict points at the existing unsignalized intersection.
Let There Be Light!
Sadly, Florida has one of the highest pedestrian death rates in the nation. In an effort to improve nighttime pedestrian safety at signalized intersections, FDOT District 2 engaged our Florida Transportation group to design new roadway light fixtures for 15 high-risk corridors in Duval, St. Johns, Clay and Alachua counties in Jacksonville as part of a districtwide lighting design contract. A large portion of the project was executed in our Tampa office.
Our new designs, which include the retrofitting of existing lighting at signalized intersections, use long-lasting LED fixtures that are not only energy-efficient but also provide more consistent “light spread” (the amount of space a light covers) as well as higher output of light at lower wattages. LED lighting is now the FDOT lighting standard for both roadway luminance and the vertical illumination of pedestrians.
One of the things that stands out about this project is that our team was challenged with designing a substantial amount of lighting improvements for District 2—more than 160 signalized intersections spanning 15 corridors—in just a year and a half. And we did it, successfully delivering the $1.5 million project under budget and within the fast-paced 18-month window.
The end result improves safety and quality of life in communities along the high-risk corridors by increasing pedestrian visibility within the crosswalks for all legs of the intersections. Safety is also enhanced by eliminating excessive negative contrast polarity, which limits a driver’s ability to see pedestrians.
Safety Can’t Wait
To date, Gresham Smith is now under contract in nearly every FDOT district as our statewide presence and our local Tampa office continues to grow. The project work we deliver for the Department comes from multiple on-call contracts as well as standalone design contracts.
Along with the flexibility to serve as an extension of FDOT, a major benefit of these on-call contracts is the ability to facilitate a more immediate execution of projects in terms of their implementation. And that aligns with an old saying that rings especially true to me and to anyone who works in this field: Safety can’t wait!