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MPO hears of ways to clear traffic crashes faster


SARASOTA - You're driving on I-75 one day, or maybe it's at night, and suddenly traffic slows and then stops.

If it's an accident, you could be stuck for hours on the highway, but the Florida Department of Transportation's Traffic Incident Management team is trying to limit the amount of time lost on the highways as accidents are cleaned up.

The presentation was at the end of Monday's Sarasota Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting.

The project, said Ted Smith of Delcan Group, would help deal with accidents like the crash at the I-75 bridge over U.S. 301 last year that led to an explosion and the replacement of part of the bridge. An accident on a road cuts down its maximum capacity and can lead to secondary accidents and danger for rescue personnel, he said.

"The TIM Team Program brings together all agencies involved in clearing the roadway crashes with the objective of improving detection, verification, response, and clearance times to expeditiously remove a motor vehicle crash or incident from the roadway while providing the best real-time information to motorists, resulting in a safer roadway environment for both incident responders and motorists," the project Web site says.

There are 15 teams in Florida working on the problem, and District 1 has been working with them, he said. The idea is sweeping around the country, and especially on communications issues.

It's important to unite public safety personnel so there isn't any duplication of effort at an accident scene, Smith said.

"Everybody is working on these issues, but they're doing it independently," he said. "And that's really been the problem in the past. Everyone comes together at the incident or the accident, but they're operating under their own protocols or procedures."

The other issue is responder safety at incident scenes, and when people are distracted at the initial event or high-speed traffic has to merge, it can cause problems for responders as well as secondary crashes.

One big issue that comes up, especially at night, Smith said, is having a lot of emergency vehicles with their flashing lights on, which may confuse drivers and give the accident scene the appearance of a "circus," he said, so part of their effort is to limit emergency lighting to what is necessary.

Other efforts include dealing with fuel spills, cable median barriers, quick road clearance techniques, tow trucks and other efforts to clear accidents faster.

Also Monday, the MPO board heard a report on the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority from Manatee County Commissioner Donna Hayes. She said the had been a lot of public comment on the new master plan and that various agencies had worked well together.

In the consent section, the MPO board approved unanimously:

  • An administrative amendment to the fiscal year 2008-09 and 2012-13 Transportation Improvement Program.

  • A joint certification on the Metropolitan Transportation Planning process for the federal government.

  • An amendment to the Unified Planning Work Program to allow for a higher allocation of planning funds to the MPO.

The MPO board also approved unanimously:

  • The fiscal year 2008-09 and 2012-13 Transportation Improvement Program.

  • The Long-Range Transportation Plan.

  • The Sarasota/Manatee MPO Draft Public Participation Plan.


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