HOBE SOUND, Fla. -- A community of people say they need a traffic light at the front of their Hobe Sound neighborhood.
Engineers at the Department of Transportation say they have a different solution that will work better.
Traffic coming out of Poinciana Gardens off of U.S. 1 in Hobe Sound has often been snarled into an unsafe situation. As cars turn left out of the neighborhood's only entrance and exit, it must join traffic at speeds of at least 55 miles per hour.
Multiple accidents have occurred at the intersection in recent years. Two of the accidents in the last 10 years have been fatal.
Jahn Hepp was injured in an accident while trying to turn into his neighborhood.
"Unfortunately, I got T-boned and unfortunately, I still suffer from problems of that accident," he said. "I was airlifted to St. Mary's Hospital. That's how severe that accident was."
The Department of Transportation's traffic engineers noticed a pattern of problems at the intersection and decided to address them last year.
Jonathan Overton, District Assistant Traffic Operations Engineer for DOT, says he is concerned with the safety of drivers coming to and from Poinciana Gardens, as well as those passing by at high speed.
He studied the intersection in detail, noting the volume of traffic, locating the most dangerous points of potential contact, and thinking about solutions.
"It has been tricky and we have a pattern of crashes, left-turn angle crashes where people are getting hurt and there have been several fatalities at this intersection," he explained. "But it doesn't warrant a traffic signal, the volume in other words, there is just not enough traffic for eight hours for any 24-hour period to justify stopping the majority of traffic which is on U.S. 1 on a regular basis."
The Poinciana Gardens community has asked DOT to install a traffic light. Instead, DOT is going to alter the intersection so only right turns can be made out of the neighborhood. Then, they will alter the median and shoulders so that there is a place to make a U-turn.
"We do plan to restrict left turns out by reshaping the median at the intersection and forcing people coming out of the neighborhood to turn right and then make a U-turn downstream at a new median opening that we're going to be constructing," he said.
Overton believes this will be a safer solution than a traffic light.
"A traffic signal isn't always the answer to a problem at an intersection, as a matter of fact, at an intersection like this one, where you have speeds as high as you do, you could actually create a high-crash spot, a high-crash intersection, once the traffic signal goes in," he said.
Residents don't all agree with Overton's analysis.
"If we all have to turn right now and then make a U-turn up there, it's going to cause a major traffic congestion," said Greta Wester. "I don't feel that it will help. I just feel like it's going to make matters worse."
Hepp said a light is a better option. "It would be easier for people pulling out of the neighborhood pulling trailers, boat trailers, extra long vehicles."
Hepp added that he believes making a U-turn is more unsafe than crossing over several lanes of high-speed traffic to turn left.
"The problem that you're going to have is that when people make a U-turn, they're going to making a U-turn in front of other cars," he said.
DOT plans to start construction at the intersection in January of 2012. Residents plan to argue with the department until then.
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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