Yellowbird closed to large trucks
Yellowbird Street on Marco Island, said MIPD Captain Dave Baer, was not designed to be a truck route for heavy vehicles. After years of residents’ complaints, near misses, and mailboxes damaged or destroyed by oversize vehicles, the city has restricted the size of vehicles allowed on the street.
“Why did we do it? Safety,” said Baer. “Think of that roadway – it’s an informal communicator road between two of the busiest roads on Marco Island, Collier Blvd. and Bald Eagle. Traffic is like water – it takes the path of least resistance. People try to shortcut on Yellowbird to avoid the traffic lights.”
On Feb. 23, the city erected signage indicating Yellowbird St. is now restricted to vehicles under 10,000 lbs., with certain exceptions. The restriction does not apply to fire department or EMS vehicles, garbage trucks, school buses or commercial trucks making a delivery on the street. All others, said the release from MIPD, “must use alternative routes, such as Collier Blvd., Barfield Drive, or Bald Eagle Drive.”
“I followed a 50-ft. semi-trailer hauling gasoline down Yellowbird. There’s no reason for them to use a residential street,” said Baer. “It’s better for trucks like that to use a major arterial. There are no commercial establishments on Yellowbird,” so any commercial traffic, unless going to a home on the street, is using the street as a bypass.
“There are no bike lanes on the street – it’s not as wide as the major thoroughfares. Trucks tend to drive left of center,” squeezing other vehicles on the road. When two large trucks would meet going opposite directions on Yellowbird, that presented an additional hazard, he noted.
“It’s been a frequent occurrence that mailboxes have gotten hit. A lot of mailboxes on the street have been moved, hardened, or raised” above the level of vehicle mirrors, said Baer. Over the years, complaints from residents have been “numerous and frequent.”
Trucks intrinsically are noisier than cars or light vehicles such as pickups, and generate additional noise when they drive over the reflectors in the center line striping. Large trucks also create backups at both ends of the street, particularly during the months of the season, waiting for a gap in traffic on Collier Blvd. or Bald Eagle Dr. to return to the main road.
Baer said the department had not yet issued any traffic citations for violating the 10,000-lb. limit.
“Any time you do a new traffic program, a new stop sign or whatever, there is a period of adjustment” while motorists learn of and become accustomed to the new situation. The MIPD had put out notices to media and social media – Baer put in a plug for all Marco residents to sign up to follow the department on Twitter @MarcoIslandPD to stay up on the latest safety bulletins – along with extensive signage and the temporary use of the city’s electronic signboard.
“We’re in a period of education – another week, and then we’ll move to enforcement,” he said. Drivers of large trucks, with commercial licenses, are particularly sensitive to accumulating traffic tickets, he said. “We want people to self-regulate.”
Baer also mentioned another situation where a change on an island street has created a potentially hazardous condition. The city established a new pedestrian crosswalk on Collier Blvd. at Bayside Court, opposite Joey’s Pizza & Pasta House.
The crosswalk “went live” on Dec. 7, said Marco’s Public Works Director Tim Pinter – “Pearl Harbor Day” – after a lengthy process including traffic studies, public comment and deliberations by the City Council.
“Any time you put in a new crosswalk, it takes time for people (driving by) to remember it,” said Baer. “If you’re walking across, be vigilant.”
He said the department had received one complaint of a vehicle ignoring the crosswalk at Bayside.
“In Florida, motorists must yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk. Otherwise, it’s a traffic offense – a violation of statute 316.075.” The crosswalk has flashing lights on signs, and is triggered by a pushbutton, said Baer.