Ongoing concerns about restrictions at nest site

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Ongoing concerns about restrictions at nest site

Yes, Jill, this is a difficult situation for all parties. As eagle watchers, we saw the threats to the safety of observers who gathered at the very edge of the highway, as well as to those in vehicles who slowed down or stopped in the traffic lanes.

The Eagle Sanctuary Steering Committee members met with FDOT in hopes of a solution that would separate the viewers from vehicle traffic. FDOT agreed to consider construction of a viewing area as part of its existing plan to put a sidewalk on the south side of Pines Boulevard. Unfortunately, the planning, approval and funding process cannot produce results before mid-2011.

Among the complications are the lack of parking and the fact that the intersection at Pines and 209th is not engineered to permit a protected pedestrian crosswalk. This problem also has to be remedied before a sidewalk can be constructed.

See the minutes of the Steering Committee's September 9, 2009 meeting with FDOT at this link. FDOT made it clear that it did not wish to encourage or create parking on the right-of way, which extends 50 feet on either side of the highway.

In view of the extended planning horizon, we asked FDOT to consider some type of temporary wall (such as water-filled barrels or sectional barriers) that would allow for a breakdown lane and also keep nest observers off the shoulder of the road.

FDOT's position was that such a barrier would itself cause a traffic hazard, as it would limit the space available for collision avoidance:

"Ken Schneider highlighted his experience with visitors to the site. He mentioned the difficulty of finding parking, speed limit violations, the crossing of Pines Blvd by pedestrians, and how children and pets are present.

"It was suggested that the Department place a barrier on the south side to protect pedestrians. However, the Department stated that placing a barrier in the right of way is a clear zone issue and was more of a hazard than a benefit as vehicles on the road would not have the ability to break should the need occur."  

As unhappy as I was at the outcome of this meeting, I left with the feeling that the public safety issues were indeed very complex, and that FDOT felt a sincere responsibility to safely accommodate viewers. The extended planning horizon was the greatest disappointment.