BOCA RATON, Fla. – We’ve learned exclusive new information to a story WPTV followed all morning long on Wednesday.
The driver of a tractor trailer lost control and crashed on the Congress Avenue overpass in Boca Raton, marking the fourth crash in less than a year in that spot.
Police don’t think drivers realize they need to turn right at the top of the exit ramp. It’s become such a concern that the Florida Department of Transportation is going to make some changes.
Sharon Taylor, who runs the Eagle Dry Cleaning shop near the overpass, has a front row seat to the chaos on Congress.
“Obviously it jams up 95 in both directions so signage would be a great thing,” she said. “The state should take action, let’s save lives. We’re not driving around trying to hurt one another so the state should do something about it.”
Wednesday morning’s crash blocked traffic for hours, but no one was seriously injured. In November, a minor crash was reported at the exit. In August, Chopper 5 captured dramatic video of an 18-wheeler dangling off the bridge. The driver was confused and drove straight ahead after exiting, not realizing there was a median and a wall there.
“I’ve seen trucks almost run over the bridge in car crashes,” said Eddyson Jean Jacques, who also works nearby. “I think it’s just because the curve it’s kind of too tight, they just need to make it a little bigger and wider.”
Last May, a man was arrested after negligent driving sent his car off the overpass, paralyzing his passenger.
State police believe it’s the drivers that are the issue, not necessarily the ramp.
“Whenever they’re driving the big rigs and they have loads on them, they need to adjust their speed if they’re going to exit the ramp just like anybody else,” said Mark Wysocky, a trooper for Florida Highway Patrol. “Exiting interstate from 65 or 70 miles an hour, obviously they need to slow down. When you’re out there driving, you need to pay attention.”
Either way, the crashes have prompted FDOT to do something about it.
“Following the one in August, we did a review of all the signage that’s in that area to see if we needed to upgrade anything and that’s what we’re going to be doing,” said FDOT spokesperson Chuck McGinness. “We feel it’s properly marked right now but to avoid any confusion we are going to add some additional signs on the interstate. Anything that we can do to make the roads safer we will certainly consider.”
Crews will install “Exit Only” signs on the road leading up to the ramp, which is a part of the interstate that narrows from five lanes to four lanes. As drivers exit, they will see two large signs indicating a traffic signal.
“Right here in the median on the curb, we’re going to be painting that yellow, 65 feet of curb,” said McGinnes, pointing to the renditions of the new signs. “So when people are coming down that exit ramp, their lights will hit it.”
FDOT will also install a large right turn sign, showing a 5 mile per hour speed limit. The signs will be large, reflective and yellow, so that drivers can easily see that they cannot go straight and must turn right.
“We’re adding three signs here,” said McGinness, pointing to the median that trucks have plowed through. “These reflective yellow signs and then the sign showing the right turn only.”
While FDOT hopes the signs will help, McGinness says it’s now up to the people behind the wheel.
“The onus is going to be on the drivers. They need to pay attention to the signs, put down the cell phone. Pay attention to the road,” he said.
FDOT hopes to have the signs up by the beginning of the summer. They will begin installing the new signs in the next 60 days.