“We never know when a car may come through the window.”
That is the frightening view of Doug Kostowski and the staff of Travel People whose office in the Killian Professional Village overlooks the intersection of SW 104th Street and 107th Avenue, where Kostowski claims 81 accidents have occurred in seven weeks as a result of SR 874 interchange construction.
Displaying a four-page police record to prove his point, Kostowski accuses the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) of creating a safety hazard with a faulty design instead of improving traffic flows on the 104th Street bridge over the newly redesigned Don Shula Expressway.
“Highway engineers have created a monster with impossible turn lanes and improper signage, forcing U-turns and split-second decisions that can cause accidents,” Kostowski wrote in a letter published by the Miami Herald on Aug. 16, after four lanes of westbound traffic opened on the bridge.
“This major do-over was supposed to improve a poor situation, but it created a worse scenario begging for fatalities…come see for yourself.”
“It’s an engineering disaster,” Kostowski later told the Gazette of the daily frequency of minor and major fender benders that occurred between Aug. 1 and Sept. 14, including 10 hit-and-run reports of Florida Highway Patrol and Miami-Dade Police.
While some of those accidents occurred on side streets, more than half were located within a one- to three-block area around the intersection, Kostowski noted. All are located within a quarter-mile radius of the expressway bridge the record shows.
“In regards to the traffic shift prior to the full opening of the Killian Interchange, MDX continues to review and analyze the official data provided by the Florida Highway Patrol and the Miami-Dade Police Department,” replied Tere Garcia, MDX spokesperson. “This data has to be categorized correctly as to the type and actual location of the reported incident.
“The information provided to you labeled ‘Dispatch Report’ does not reflect the details as to the cause and severity of the incident, or whether it is located in the active construction zone or in surrounding areas, such as parking lots.
“We are conducting a full safety report of the intersection, active construction zone and traffic pattern. As soon as this is completed we will share the results and recommendations with you,” she concluded.
Kostowsk nevertheless blames confusing signage erected in August that causes eastbound motorists to choose between a northbound turn on SW 107th Avenue or continuing westbound on SW 104th Street, as well as the newly prohibited westbound turns from a southbound exit ramp off the Shula Expressway (SR 874).
“Drivers are really confused about what to do,” Kostowski claimed. “We’re seeing motorists in westbound-only lanes make northbound turns. Afew even make U-turns to the extent that four police units are staged daily in 13-hour shifts in the Kendale community, prohibiting the U-turns.
“Even worse are those now exiting the Shula southbound and being directed to make a right or eastbound turn. Many ignore it and turn left, like they always did, and when they do, wham! We hear such collisions every day.”
Kostowski claimed accident frequency began when new directional signage was first erected for westbound motorists, fourlane westbound traffic over the still not completed SW 104th Street bridge to open new SR 874 access ramps.
In an earlier email response to his complaint, MDX public information officer Mario Diaz defended the new Killian- Shula Expressway interchange, now in its second year of construction.
“Engineers hired by MDX are confident the redesigned roadway is a safe and appropriate improvement to the former roadway configuration,” Diaz said.
Restructuring the Shula-Killian Drive bridge is a major part of the MDX project to improve ramp access off SW 104th Street and provide easier on-off accessibility to the Kendall Campus of Miami-Dade College, as well as widen and install SunPass-only travel on the SR 874.
Because initial complaints “failed to get me anywhere,” Kostowski has enlisted Kendall’s “Roll Back Tolls” co-leaders Carlos Garcia and Miller Myers who regularly appear at MDX meetings to protest new SunPass lanes on both the Shula and Snapper Creek (SR 878) expressways initiated in July of 2010.
Kostowski, with Garcia and Myers, met with Miami-Dade Commissioner Lynda Bell and MDX officials on Aug. 31 to urge an immediate solution to the hazard they claimed is posed by the new traffic configuration, primarily resulting from the newly opened four lanes divided by a concrete median to separate westbound “through” traffic on SW 104th Street from north-turning motorists on SW 107th Avenue.
On Sept. 19, Myers and Garcia addressed a formal complaint letter to Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Secretary Ananth Prasad, and Gus Pego, FDOT Secretary for District 8, urging the state agency “to immediately assume full responsibility for the re-configuration of Killian Parkway and 107th Avenue.
Their co-signed letter continues: “…the nearby Kendale neighborhood remains under siege with no resolution in sight. Despite repeated efforts…MDX appears unwilling or unable to resolve” issues of signage, engineering and inadequate communications.
Appeals to other county officials “have gone without any action” as of late September, said Kostowski who has scheduled a second meeting with MDX officials, hoping to resolve a matter that also ties up his staff’s homeward bound trips.
“When I go home, I want to go southbound on SW 107th Avenue from our parking lot but traffic is usually pretty well at a standstill at five o’clock,” explained Cuqui Ramos who lives in a section of Kendale just east of the SR 874 bridge.
“Now, with the added traffic, because of limited turns, it’s hopeless. I have to exit west on SW 104th Street and either make a U-turn or loop around through other streets to go westbound on SW 104th Street.”