I have been following the discussions, letters and other coverage of Collier County’s red light cameras. Some of what I have been reading and hearing sounds more like sour grapes than a real concern over the efficacy of the devices. I imagine that a lot of the naysayers have been caught on a rolling stop or otherwise have been snapped by the cameras and they, therefore, immediately believe that the cameras are either “unfair” or “rigged.” Maybe so, maybe not…
There is something else that gets me about many of the intersections in Collier County and that is not whether the cameras are there or whether they should be “catching” right-turn- on-red violations. That something else is the lack of sight lines from many of the STOP bars. This is a very serious issue and one which, if corrected in many locations, might have a real effect on drivers’ desire and ability to stop at the STOP bar and then proceed forward.
For example, at the intersection of Airport Road and Progress Boulevard, the southeast corner is occupied by one of Naples finest eating institutions: Michelbob’s BBQ. If you have ever had the opportunity of waiting on Progress to pull into Airport, you know that if you stop at the STOP bar, you cannot see very far south down Airport to gauge oncoming traffic. However, if you pull out, almost into the outside northbound lane on Airport, you have an excellent sight line. Much as I love Michelbob’s ribs, their landscaping and sign on the corner are, in my opinion, safety hazards. That is but one example. I can cite dozens of similar locations.
The county also has some very interesting median landscaping. For example, on US 41 east of the courthouse, heading east about a quarter mile past the intersection of Lakewood Boulevard, there is a directional median opening to allow U-turns back toward the west. I used to use that median opening a lot to get to my veterinarian’s office. Unfortunately, because of the median landscaping, one must pull almost into the line of oncoming traffic to be able to see the oncoming traffic.
OK. We know there is a problem. What can we do about it? Not a lot, given the current state of the county’s code enforcement department and code enforcement regulations. The county corrects these problems (on private property) by waiting for a complaint to the code enforcement folks. They then send out an inspector. If the inspector finds a violation, then a notice is given or sent to the property owner who has a certain amount of time to correct the violation. If the property owner does not make the corrections (that is, remove the offending plantings, signs, or other sight obstructions) within that specific period of time, then the county goes to the code enforcement board to seek action against the property owner. All of this takes time. In many cases, it could take months. Meantime, people are putting themselves at risk.
What do you do if the alleged violation is on county property (the roadway median or edge)? First, you can call the county’s Transportation Division, Road and Bridge Section, (252-8924) and give them the location of the problem and request that the offending material be removed. Since I no longer know what their maintenance schedules are, I cannot say how long that might take, but I would give them at least two to three weeks to get it scheduled and taken care of. That may seem like a long time, but unless there is a very significant and clear danger that is not unreasonable in light of the county’s pared down work force. If the work is not performed in that time frame, another call to the Road and Bridge folks is in order before starting to move up the ladder. I would only call the division administrator or the County Manager or my Commissioner after trying at least once or twice to get those responsible at the lowest level to take care of it.
If you are interested in just what the county’s land development code has to say about sight lines and corner clearances, I invite your attention to Section 4.06.01D of the Collier County Land Development code. You may view it online as well at the following location: http://www.municode.com/resources/gateway.asp?pid=13992&sid=9. In addition to the verbiage in the code, on that web page there is a set of sketches depicting exactly how the corner sight lines are to be implemented.
In addition to the landscaping or sign sight line issues, there are also locations where the STOP bars and STOP signs might be relocated to make it easier to view oncoming traffic and not risk running past the stop line. If you believe you know of such a location, consider contacting the Traffic Operations folks and letting them know (252-8677). Obviously, not all locations will lend themselves to such “adjustments”, but perhaps we can get a few relocated so that both the risk of a violation and a safer roadway environment will both be closer at hand.
Do you have your own favorite “non-sight” visibility problem? Perhaps if citizens let the county know about these problems, especially at the locations where the red light cameras are located, or where there is a real issue with safety, then perhaps we might feel better about stopping right at the STOP bar and STOP sign rather than rolling past them.