PHOTO: File photo of Fire-Rescue responded to a rollover motor vehicle accident on I-95 northbound lanes just south of Atlantic Avenue.
Story by Angel Streeter / Sun Sentinel
Posted by Scott T. Smith / CBS12 News
BOCA RATON, Fla. — Crashes on Interstate 95 seem unpredictable and random. But those dreaded crashes that block lanes, clog traffic and make you late for work occur more often in certain areas than others.
Commuters driving through Palm Beach County are more likely to get hung up in the southern half of the county where most major crashes occur, particularly around the Yamato Road and Atlantic Avenue interchanges.
In Broward County, they’re more likely to face delays around Oakland Park Boulevard, which has a large share of major crashes on the highway.
Why those areas? Traffic congestion and the sheer number of cars plays a part, for sure. But other things, such as the configuration of interchanges, bottlenecks, construction and distracted drivers all also play some role, said traffic safety officials.
“You’re going to have more incidents at locations where there are high volumes of traffic and high volumes of traffic that is changing lanes,” said Mark Plass, a traffic engineer for the Florida Department of Transportation.
Since February 2012 on I-95 in Palm Beach County, most of the severe incident responders’ calls have come in the vicinity of Atlantic Avenue. There have been 90 major crashes up to July. The area around Yamato Road isn’t far behind, with 89 major crashes. Around Gateway Boulevard there were 86 severe crashes, and 87 near Sixth Avenue South and 10th Avenue North.
In fact, some 47 percent of major crashes on I-95 in Palm Beach occurred in Boca Raton, Delray Beach and Boynton Beach, according to the calls severe incident teams responded to.
“I’m not surprised about Yamato,” said Robin Cohen, of Coconut Creek, about the amount of crashes near that interchange. “It’s a very busy exit. All I remember is there was usually a few accidents per week.”
Frequently, commuters exit at Yamato to get to the large business parks and big businesses such as Office Depot in Boca Raton, she said. For so many vehicles, she felt the northbound exit ramp was too short.
But not all the areas that have a significant number of crashes have the most traffic.
A years-long bottleneck near Atlantic Avenue — which has less traffic than areas around Forest Hill Boulevard and the exits to Palm Beach International Airport — may account for the significant number of crashes there. On southbound I-95, traffic often backs up beginning at Atlantic in Delray Beach as lanes are reduced from five lanes to four going into Boca Raton.
“Bottleneck areas tend to create other problems,” Plass said.
In Broward, current road work may be wreaking havoc. Between February 2012 and July 2013, 164 major crashes occurred near the Hollywood Boulevard interchange and 159 crashes near the Sheridan Street interchange. The Florida Highway Patrol said that area has been particularly busy for them in the last few months.
“In Hollywood, they have construction going on for the new express lanes,” said Sgt. Mark Wysocky, a spokesman for the Florida Highway Patrol.
FDOT is building tolled express lanes from the Golden Glades interchange to Stirling Road.
Hollywood and Sheridan attract plenty of traffic on I-95 with traffic volumes ranging from 265,000 to 274,000 vehicles a day. But areas around Broward and Sunrise boulevards have the heaviest traffic on I-95, with volumes reaching as high as 294,000 vehicles a day.
And yet, they don’t have as many crashes as the worst area for I-95 crashes in Broward County: Oakland Park Boulevard, which had 198 major crashes.
“It’s really congested between Commercial Boulevard and Sunrise Boulevard, especially during the rush hours,” said Tom Dickson, severe incident response manager. “And Oakland Park is right in the middle … On the way to the office, I can’t get there without going to a crash around Oakland Park and Commercial.”
Several things could be happening there. For one, there’s the high traffic volume, up to 262,000 vehicles a day.
But the configuration of the interchanges also plays a role, said Lisa Dykstra, a concept-development coordinator with FDOT. Broward’s interchanges are in close proximity to each other so there are continuous ramps from one interchange to the other.
As a result, several areas around Oakland Park have conflicting merging traffic — drivers trying to get on the highway while other drivers are trying to get off.
“Multiple on and off ramps can be a problem on the mainline,” Dykstra said.
Atlantic Boulevard, which doesn’t have as much traffic as other parts of I-95 in Broward, also had a significant number of incidents, with 131 major crashes.
Some relief is on the horizon. FDOT is in the midst of planning several widening projects on I-95 that will include express lanes as far north as Linton Boulevard.
The department hopes to start construction in 2016. Plus, studies are under way looking at improvements for interchanges in both Palm Beach and Broward counties.Crashes on I-95 happen in the same areas; Delray Beach and Boca Raton are hotspots