SPECIAL REPORT | Fast lane fears for drivers: Interstate express lanes under the microscope

Miami problems expose lessons for TBX in Tampa

TAMPA, FLa. - Miami is a city full of life. That is until you hit the real Miami Vice: traffic.

It's a place where drivers are so frustrated, they've invented a new sport called "lane diving." Drivers, diving in and out of express lanes.

Expressed lanes were supposed to be the solution, but have now become part of the problem.

Drivers say it's how the lanes were installed that has led to accidents. Accidents like the one that put Stephanie Blossom in the hospital weeks before she gave birth to her baby boy.

"I was scared about my baby," she recalls. "I was on my way to Toys-R-Us to work on my registry when all of a sudden I was on the side of the road scared if my baby was going to live or die."

Stephanie was driving in the regular lane when an express lane driver ran over the orange cones, running right into Stephanie's path.

"I spun out, I hit the retaining wall at full speed," she says.

The only thing between her life and the express lane diver was a thin piece of plastic.

"At any moment there is a chance that somebody is going to dive into my lane not wanting to pay the fee for the express lanes from the beginning, " says Mark Kaire, a Miami attorney who represents 10 clients suing FDOT after being involved in serious accidents related to the orange cones separating the express lanes from the regular lanes.

KAIRE & HEFFERNAN, LLC

Kaire says lane diving has turned I-95 into a danger zone.

"We've had rollover accidents, back surgeries, neck surgeries you name it," says Kaire.

"You've had over 12 thousand accidents over the last 3 years, fatalities what more do you need?," asks Kaire.

And it's not just a safety concern in Miami.

Miami drivers who pay as much as $17 during peak rush hour to use the express lanes and they still run into stop and go traffic in the fast lane.

The reason? In Miami, FDOT turned two existing lanes into express lanes essentially shrinking the highway for everyone else.

"It's not a solution to traffic and it's a safety hazard," says Kaire.

Back in Tampa, the promotional video for TBX features the same plastic dividers that drivers in Miami say are dangerous.

We asked FDOT to clarify if those orange cones would be used in here in Tampa. They refused to answer our questions.

And since we started looking into this story, the entire TBX project has been put on hold, while FDOT tries to convince the community that express lanes are a good idea.

 

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