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Strident Opposition to Roundabout at US1 and Old Dixie Even As Another Crash Results In Critical Injury

| January 19, 2018

John Dance, a retired Florida Highway Patrol traffic homicide investigator, one of the 20-odd people who addressed a public hearing on a proposed roundabout on U.S. 1 Thursday evening, blamed victims and their human errors for crashes at the intersection of U.S. 1 and Old Dixie Highway. (© FlaglerLive)

John Dance, a retired Florida Highway Patrol traffic homicide investigator, one of the 20-odd people who addressed a public hearing on a proposed roundabout on U.S. 1 Thursday evening, blamed victims and their human errors for crashes at the intersection of U.S. 1 and Old Dixie Highway. (© FlaglerLive)

The open house and public hearing about a proposed $2.9 million roundabout at the deadly intersection of U.S. 1 and Old Dixie Highway began at 5:30 p.m. Thursday evening.


Flagler’s 911 dispatch center got the call about a severe crash with injuries at the intersection of U.S. 1 and Old Dixie Highway at 5:32 p.m. Two vehicles. Airbags in both deployed. Occupants in each were still in the two small sedans, one a Nissan, the other a Volvo. One of the vehicles was driven by a Putnam County Sheriff’s deputy. He was not injured seriously. The woman in the other car was.

Meanwhile state transportation officials mingled among some 400 people who had gathered for the open house not far from the crash site. They were all within walking distance of the crash site, down Old Dixie Highway at the Community Baptist Church. There was something morbid in the irony of the timing, and the irony of what was to follow inside the church: with near-total unanimity, those who spoke about the proposed roundabout, intended to drastically reduce severe crashes, opposed it.

Just about the time when all lanes on U.S. 1 were shut down to allow for Fire Flight’s landing to collect a critically injured woman and fly her to Halifax hospital in Daytona Beach, the actual hearing began, with transportation officials explaining the purpose of the roundabout by way of a recorded presentation and members of the public filing up to a microphone to speak their objections in two-minute increments.

Sheriff Rick Staly began with noting the crash that had just happened: “I can tell you it’s critical injuries, she had to be fireflighted back to Halifax hospital,  and the highway patrol is doing the investigation, so what tells me as sheriff is the likelihood that she could die from this crash,” he said, asking the crowd to keep the woman in their thoughts. He then summarized what he’d told FlaglerLive earlier in the day: he’s not objecting the roundabout, deferring instead to transportation official’s expertise, and predicted a mix of views ahead, about the roundabout: he was being more hopeful than what would unfold.

“I have to respectfully disagree that the roundabout is the safest thing,” Pat Cody said immediately after the sheriff. “I’m here to oppose this one, but I’m also here to oppose the one at Cody’s Corner.” The transportation department is designing additional roundabouts for the intersections at State Road 11 and County Road 304, and at U.S. 1 and Matanzas Woods Parkway. “I have over 450 signatures against the one at Cody’s Corner.” She had emailed questions to the transportation department’s Steve Olson in June of 2017 with some questions, hearing back that a traffic study concluded a traffic light at that intersection was not feasible. “How much less traffic is needed for a roundabout?” she asked. She also doubted the suggestion that the roundabout would not need to encroach on further property.

And so it went.

The crowd at Thursday evening's public hearing. (© FlaglerLive)

The crowd at Thursday evening’s public hearing. (© FlaglerLive)

Don White had several questions, including how the roundabout would work when I-95 is shut down and its traffic flows up and down U.S 1. Mark Langello, a property owner in Bunnell and a member of the county’s planning board, said he was “fundamentally” opposed to the roundabout, saying traffic won’t slow down approaching it. “A lot of people who are dying out there, possibly even tonight, it’s serious issue,” Langello said, “so we appreciate the fact that you guys are going to do something, but if the solution you’re coming up with doesn’t work, then  that doesn’t help anybody, and roundabouts are usually are successful in city environments where the traffic already is slow, not on a road where people don’t have the visibility and are already going fast.” (Transportation officials project traffic having to slow down to 35 to 25 mph before taking the roundabout.)

Rebecca O’Shane said a red light would make more sense. Several others, including a truck driver, said the same. John Dance a retired Florida Highway Patrol traffic homicide investigator who lives in Flagler, spoke his opposition to the roundabout by starting to say that “There is nothing wrong with that intersection,” then going on to blame the victims killed there. “Unfortunately for the people who perished at that intersection,” he said, “based on my training and experience, you can’t fix human error. I feel really bad for the family of five that died at that intersection, but you can’t pull out in front of an F-350 and not see it, and in 2017, the next one was a motorcycle, pulled out of a pick-up truck.” He also questioned the engineering and the proposed elevation of the roundabout at the intersection. “It’s not going to work,” he said, calling the whole effort “a knee-jerk direction for a five-person death at Old Dixie Highway.” He repeated: “You can’t fix human error.”

But as transportation officials might have told him had they used the platform to respond that evening—they did not—all road engineering is designed not so much to “fix” human error but to mitigate and minimize it.

Dance was followed by a trucker who said he’d rather see a red light there, and by David Shaw, who called the roundabout “a high-speed obstacle,” preferring a lowering and enforcement of the speed limits (though Staly said “we cannot enforce our way” out of the problem, FHP and the sheriff’s office not having the personnel to patrol the area as constantly as the public expects). Another man called the roundabout “a stupid decision” that had already been made. Others who spoke included a mail carrier who travels the road constantly and noted that drivers blow through stop signs routinely, or “rolling” through the stop signs, triggering wrecks. “A stop light is the answer,” she said.

Marvin Clegg of Flagler Beach, who owns property in western Flagler and drove through the intersection for 20 years, going to work, lent credence against any assumption that those opposed to roundabouts are only those not familiar with them. He said he hoped the plan was just “a trial balloon,” enabling the transportation to back off and come up with something else. “What you would be doing with this proposal would be to force traffic off of 325 and Old Dixie to go into this what I would call a Russian roulette wheel of a roundabout, whereas right now they don’t have to do that. They can stay off of U.S 1 and do their interactions between 325 and Old Dixie. It is a bad situation. It’s a bad layout. Use some of that $2.9 million that’s being proposed to do some eminent domain,” meaning acquisition of nearby private property to reroute traffic, putting a stop to people crossing U.S. 1 there.

Rare were those who, like George Mayo–a familiar face at county commission and Palm Coast City Council meetings–spoke of their opposition to the roundabout but also noted that they should keep an “open mind” to the proposal. If the roundabout were to go forward, he said, then at least one of the entry points into it should be eliminated.

“I think we’re all in agreement, something needs to be done,” another man said. The roundabout isn’t it, he said.

Toward the end of the hearing–essentially, after he’d heard where the wind was blowing–County Commissioner Nate McLaughlin, who is running for re-election, said he was speaking “on behalf of Flagler County” and pleading with the transportation department “to reconsider” the project, along with the two other proposed roundabouts. “This just isn’t going to work for the situation we’re in,” he said. “S\o please on behalf of Flagler County don’t treat a roundabout as the answer to every situation. It’s not. Let’s do a little bit more homework, please, and come back with a better solution.” The Flagler County Commission has not weighed in on the matter, so McLaughlin was assuming much when he claimed to be speaking on behalf of the county. But McLaughlin’s ear is also sharply tuned to popular will: whether he was speaking on behalf of the commission or not, he was certainly speaking on behalf of public opinion.

It’s not clear to what extent Thursday’s hearing will weigh into the transportation department’s plans for the roundabout, which has not yet been engineered, according to transportation documents. But the immediate suggestion is that a traffic light would not be considered, making the roundabout still the favored approach.

Steve Olson, the transportation department’s spokesman, who was at the hearing Thursday, emailed the following summation this afternoon: “FDOT District Five Traffic Operations will begin preparing a brief summary for individual responses describing how FDOT first considered a traffic signal at Old Dixie Highway and U.S. 1. It will describe why the close proximity of the adjacent intersection (County Road 325) 40 feet to the east precludes any safe way to install a traffic signal. Several of the public speakers noted this adjacent intersection as a problem, so it is likely many of the local residents understand this challenge however don’t yet realize how it makes a traffic signal impractical, as the intersection exists today.”

Thursday evening’s hearing ended at 7 p.m. At 7:01, the 911 dispatch center recorded that the crash scene at U.S. 1 and Old Dixie had been cleared and all lanes reopened.

The victim of the crash is Alice Howell, a 71-year-old Flagler County resident. According to family, she has six broken ribs, a punctured lung, a fractured pelvis, and two broken bones just above the ankle.

The Full Transportation Department Presentation On the Roundabout:

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26 Responses for “Strident Opposition to Roundabout at US1 and Old Dixie Even As Another Crash Results In Critical Injury”

  1. Judith Bittner says:

    For years, my family and I lived out in the countryside of Howard County Maryland. There was one particular intersection near our home that had frequent accidents, some had been fatalities. Once the roundabout was established, the number of accidents dropped dramatically…so much so that more were created in the other nearby locations where similar incidents had taken place. I would rather be sideswiped by a careless driver on a roundabout than hit broadside at an intersection by someone blowing a red light.

  2. can'tfoolme says:

    My son, a civil engineer and consultant on intersection safety design, explained to me the advantages of the roundabouts – reduced speed (I know, everyone is hell bent on saving a few seconds even it compromises safety) and the elimination of the dangerous T-bone accidents. I lived for a while in England where roundabouts are quite common and they worked beautifully. No more “didn’t see him coming” or “I think I can beat that red light”.

  3. M.Dunny says:

    Roundabouts save lives. Period.

  4. PTC Trader says:

    Roundabouts are THE BEST SOLUTION to intersection problems. Cannot believe what I can only characterize as “IGNORANCE” of those who would oppose this solution.

  5. Really says:

    Put up a light save $, time, lives. In this town it will be done anyway. Just another reason to avoid that stretch at all costs

  6. MS Auggie says:

    People seriously, dont use their turn signals many times, and they SURE dont do it at 100 feet. Usually about 10 feet.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I think a light would be better. Then if 95 is closed and there is a ton of traffic, police or C.O.P’s can go to the light and put it on an extended green until the situation clears.

  8. Richard says:

    The people who were at that meeting objecting to this roundabout are fools if they think that a traffic light is going to eliminate fatal accidents and deaths. I have witnessed so many people blowing through red lights, turning right on RED directly in front of me such that I had to lockup my brakes with skid marks to prevent hitting them. And that happens ALL over Palm Coast and Flagler County. As one person stated earlier I would rather be side swiped by a stupid impatient driver versus T-boned and killed by these knuckleheads who should have their driver’s license permanently revoked based on the way they drive and disobey traffic laws.

  9. Anonymous says:

    To hell with the European approach to this. Build a {US-bridge/overpass} over the intersection with lanes merging onto US-1 from the side roads involved. US-1 traffic can continue on at full speed while the dangerous intersection collisions are done away with. This area is only going to get more congested in the future and the usefulness of a round about will be short lived. D.O.T. needs to budget for, and build the bridge/overpass to save lives and facilitate traffic movement for the next 50 years or so. The safest way to cross an intersection on a busy 4 lane highway, is to cross over it on a bridge/overpass-PERIOD.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Really if u get t boned means u pulled out in front of someone!Cant fix distracted drivers !

  11. Ken Dodge says:

    Directional signals should be used to indicate one’s intention to turn. Many wait until they are actually turning before they activate them. How foolish.

  12. Evolution says:

    All those that oppose the roundabout will not be the ones knocking on the door of a family member that got hurt at that intersection. Even if a red light were to be installed, there will still be serious accidents at a high rate of speed occasionally. Who knows, you might even get a red light camera!

    I know it is hard to accept change, but once folks learn to navigate roundabouts, they’ll want them at every intersection. Just as long as there are not any trees, bushes or fountains in the center of the circle that obstructs the driver’s view of oncoming traffic, like the one in Palm Coast Town Center.

    Heck, you’ll probably want to start driving a stick shift as well and save gas!

    Roundabout study in Washington State: https://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Safety/roundabouts/benefits.htm

    Pic of PC roundabout: http://www.palmcoast.com/town-center-gallery-2.html#img/051.jpg

  13. Born and Raised Here says:

    Round abouts seem much safer for us bicyclist.Palm Coast needs them at every intersection. Remember Share the Road with us cyclist.

  14. joe bagodonuts says:

    what was the speed limit on the roundabouts in england?

  15. capt says:

    Its Arrogance and carelessness that causes accidents not a yield sign a traffic light or a round a bout.

    And PS, @Anonymous I guess you are going to pay for a overpass and connecting roads that will cost way over $10 million

    ” The safest way to cross an intersection on a busy 4 lane highway,” is for drivers to follow the darn rules of the road. It has nothing to do with road shapes, overpasses. People have accidents in parking lots and driving around simple neighborhoods and on our roads where we have traffic signals.

  16. Fredrick says:

    Are roundabouts a liberal conspiracy? Well even if they are they work. Plain and simple. Change is hard but when change saves lives it is a good thing.

  17. Frank says:

    $2.9 million to move some dirt and lay some asphalt?

  18. Stanley Hardy says:

    Roundabouts (or traffic circles where I come from) work just fine, except Floridians have no clue how to use them. For example the roundabout at Clearwater beach. It had a beautiful statue of dolphins with a fountain in the middle. The “constituents” had them remove that because they couldn’t see through it to the other side. There is no reason you need to see the other side just what in front of you and to your left.

  19. r&r says:

    I think they’re great. I’ve spent a lot of time in Europe and the Netherlands and they have them on every busy corner. But again they are more polite and know how to use directional lights.

  20. Coyote says:

    Two things :

    1) A roundabout MAY be a lifesaver “once people get used to it”, but, has a study been done about how much of the traffic on Rt 1 and Old Dixie is local, repeat traffic? If a significant percentage of the traffic turns out to be coming from transients or ‘pass-thrus’ (people using Rt 1 to avoid I95, etc), then these folks will not “get used to it”, and are going to be surprised upon encountering the roundabout on a US Highway.

    and

    2) The main reason I am opposed to the roundabout is that it is much easier to put a traffic signal in place first to try. Then, when/if it doesn’t work out, put the roundabout in, rather than initially placing a roundabout which would be almost impossible to remove/alter once in place if it proves useless.

  21. Sam says:

    Who cares about Bicyclist using Roundabouts in Palm Coast,half of them don’t follow the rules of the road or think you have the right of way riding threw a crosswalk!!

  22. Benjamin says:

    Roundabouts do 2 main things, force traffic to slow down, but keep moving and change (reduce) the number of possible impact points a vehicle would be subject to if in a collision. Therefore in the event of a collision the severity is reduced by 70 to 80 percent. Traffic Lights will be run and have the Highest number of impact points in a collision.
    People don’t like change, even when it a proven positive change. That is understandable. But people think of the problem and the real reason you don’t want to try something new, are you afraid to learn how to drive in a circle? or do you think it will be too big of a challenge to get home from the bar?
    Roundabouts save lives, save wear on vehicles, save fuel and are faster to get through than a traffic light.

  23. Richard says:

    What the hell is there about “getting used to” a roundabout? Please, please tell me! Anyone attempting to enter the roundabout HAS to yield to a vehicle in possession of the the space within the roundabout, When it is safe to enter then you can do so. Simple as that! Then you have to know where to exit. There will be signs in advance telling the drivers where the exits are in relation to the roundabout. But of course that requires the driver to read and comprehend which I think most don’t have a clue. AND, oh by the way, it helps to put that damn phone down from talking, reading or texting.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Good grief, a roundabout on a HIGHWAY where the speeds are highway speeds (55-65 mph)??? BAD decision! Put up traffic signals instead, and perhaps a couple of polelights by the intersection so oncoming traffic can better see.

  25. Richard says:

    Tell me, what is the difference between driving 65 mph approaching a traffic light versus 65 mph approaching a roundabout? NOTHING! Anyone with half a brain knows that you are required to reduce speeds PRIOR to either one. The biggest difference other than one is more safer than the other is you will sit at a traffic light going nowhere regardless of traffic whereas you will continue on your way with a roundabout once you safely enter the roundabout, People, this is NOT brain surgery or rocket science!

  26. William says:

    On Feb 16 2017 I was coming home from work and a gentleman decided to pull out and stop in front of me at the intersection of Old Dixie and route 1 causing me to be thrown 75 feet off my motorcycle. Giving me a concussion, three surgeries to my hands, nerve damage, and most likely a limp in my right leg for life. Please stop spending millions of dollars on power poles and fix this intersection. Public safety should be your number one concern. You have had plenty of time to fix this issue.

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