Florida is hoping to make a part of U.S. 17/92 a bit safer for residents of Winter Park this year by installing a raised grass median on the roadway just south of Orange Avenue.
The Florida Department of Transportation introduced the project during a public hearing Aug. 10 at the Winter Park Civic Center.
The median would be placed near a railroad crossing.
“It’s going into the area we call ‘SunRail phase one,’ and we are running 32 miles right now … and there are certain areas along ‘phase one’ that we have identified that might need some attention as far as safety upgrades at the crossings,” FDOT Project Manager Steve Olson said. “We’ve had over the years some instances there where cars have been struck at that crossing. If you look at the dynamics of it, it’s an open median right now, and it ends at a certain place. But just because there are painted stripes on the pavement doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s where it ends.”
Olson also said there have been issues of traffic getting congested at the crossing, which also has led to cars stopping on the train tracks — another major safety issue.
The hope is a raised median would help traffic flow along that section of roadway and reduce what the FDOT refers to as “conflict points” — locations along a road where the paths of two vehicles can cross legally but not at the same time. The points are possible spots of frequent crashes.
According to FDOT research, there are as many as 32 individual conflict points at a typical two-lane, four-way intersection. FDOT believes the median would help reduce conflict points.
Currently, the plan is still in the early stages, but if approved, the design will be complete by the fall before construction starts sometime during the end of the year.
The projected cost for the construction of the median is to be around $65,000, which is being fully funded by the FDOT.
The median is part of a larger plan that also includes a quiet zone in the area of the crossing. The project in its entirety, which includes modifying roadways in that 32-mile stretch of roadway, will cost $13 million — $4.5 million of which will be contributed by local government, and the rest will be matched by FDOT and other sources.
The development of this crossing has personal resonance for Olson, who recalled witnessing a crash that occurred at the track.
“Everybody was fortunate all the way around,” Olson said of that crash. “Nobody was hurt and yes, people were delayed in their travels, but that shows that some mitigation or some form of safety improvements are need in that area.”