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Traffic light near Del Prado RaceTrac gets support

By Staff | Feb 15, 2012

An advisory board is recommending that the Cape Coral City Council further consider a traffic signal near an intersection where a boy was hit and killed.

The Transportation Advisory Commission discussed at its monthly meeting Wednesday asking the council to voice support for a light at Northeast Third Terrace or Northeast Second Terrace. Council may face the issue Feb. 27.

The discussion was spurred by a presentation by Kimberly Seyer, who spoke on behalf of the RaceTrac near Northeast Third and Del Prado Boulevard.

“It appears the county is making the decision that the speed of a vehicle is more important than the life of a child,” she said, adding that a design plan from county staff would only move traffic faster through the intersection.

“(It is) about controlling turning movement,” Seyer said. “The county’s design does not improve pedestrian safety.”

In April 2010, Ryan Michael Santos, 13, of 228 N.E. 16th Place, was struck by a vehicle when he attempted to cross Del Prado on his bicycle, just south of Northeast Third. Ryan, who was not wearing a helmet, was ejected from his bike.

The injured teen was transported to Lee Memorial Hospital, where he died.

The driver of the vehicle did not sustain any injuries in the accident.

The county’s stance has been a signal is not warranted at the intersection.

“We believe the county’s decision is less safe,” Seyer said. “We don’t think this is the safe answer or the best answer for pedestrian safety.”

“I don’t think a traffic signal on Del Prado is going to give your citizens a total shock,” she added to the advisory board, which consists of the mayor and four city council members.

Some on the commission voiced support Wednesday for the signal.

“If we have to pay for this signal, along with RaceTrac, we’ll find the money to do it,” Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz said.

According to Seyer, RaceTrac approached county staff in December and offered to underwrite the signal. She said it would not be the first time in Lee County where the private sector has paid for a needed traffic signal.

“It is not uncommon,” Seyer said, adding the offer is still on the table.

“I think they (the county) simply disregarded the offer,” she said.

City staffers present reminded the advisory board that the county cited reasons for not installing the signal. Public Works Director Steve Neff said a signal could be problematic and may increase traffic accidents in the area.

“Each device, each approach has its own advantages and disadvantages,” Dr. Rashad Hanbali, a traffic engineer with the city, said.

He explained that a study of Northeast Third showed a signal could divert traffic from the major roads to the side roads, encouraging cut-throughs. He said staff also looked at Northeast Second, along with a pedestrian skywalk.

According to Hanbali, a skywalk or overpass may be difficult to accomplish due to stairs not being handicap-friendly and there being little space to build ramps. Pedestrians also typically use skywalks until they become a bother.

“I don’t think it can be preferred over a light,” Hanbali said.

Mayor John Sullivan suggested facilitating a meeting to include the city, county and RaceTrac. He did not want to push the issue to the side and ignore it.

“We have one situation already where one kid’s gotten killed,” he said. “Do we have to wait for another one?”

Cape resident Kerri Santos, Ryan’s mother, attended the meeting.

“I’m very happy,” she said of the city talking about a signal.

Asked about the county basing its decision for a signal on traffic volume and traffic figures, she called the logic “very disheartening.”

“They should be worried about people’s lives,” Santos said.

A family friend, Daniel Sobe, explained that they collected signatures on a petition for the county, did accident reconstructions at the crash site and counted vehicles and pedestrians in the hope of proving a signal is needed.

“It looks like a light would save other lives,” he said.

The Transportation Advisory Commission meets on the third Wednesday of each month at 9 a.m. in Conference Room 220A in City Hall, at 1015 Cultural Park Blvd. The meetings are open to the public; residents can provide input.