Veterans one step closer to safer crossing to clinic

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Fort Lauderdale, FL, September 15, 2016 | comments

Sun Sentinel

Veterans one step closer to safer crossing to clinic

Brittany Wallman

Sun Sentinel

County offers door-to-door rides to V.A. clinic to avoid Commercial crossing

Broward commissioners threw their support Thursday behind a safer crossing for military veterans headed to a clinic in Sunrise. But it likely won't be the crosswalk and pedestrian signal many have asked for.

Instead, county commissioners said they're interested in two possible solutions to address long-brewing complaints about pedestrian dangers: Construction of a pedestrian overpass spanning Commercial Boulevard in front of the William "Bill" Kling V.A. Clinic, or better county bus service that would take veterans directly to the clinic.

In the immediate future, veterans who request it will get door-to-door rides via the county paratransit service.

Veterans, congressional leaders and city elected officials have been pleading for safer pedestrian access to the clinic in the 9800 block of Commercial Boulevard for at least five years. But widow Doris Span recently added momentum to the campaign.

Her Army veteran husband, 70-year-old Willie Span, was hit by a car and killed there two years ago. She recently recovered from what she said was paralyzing anguish and guilt, and added her voice to the chorus.

Commissioners Thursday asked county staff to report back quickly on the costs and practicality of the proposals.

"We all acknowledge that something has to happen," said Mayor Marty Kiar. "I don't think anybody objects."

In the meantime, veterans who don't feel comfortable with the current setup will be allowed to use paratransit service, picked up at home and dropped off at the clinic, then retrieved after the appointment.

County Administrator Bertha Henry said the county would even accommodate veterans whose appointments run late and who miss their pickup. The veterans would be picked up with a taxi, or some other vehicle and not "be left stranded," she said.

The cost of the paratransit service, publicly subsidized rides for those who can't use mass transit, would match that of regular bus fare, she said.

"This is something we've been very concerned about," she said.

At Thursday's meeting, Kiar said representatives from the offices of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, and U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Peter Deutch and Lois Frankel were on hand to support safety enhancements.

County officials say there aren't enough pedestrians at the location to warrant a signal and crosswalk, under federal guidelines. And complicating matters, there are many jurisdictions involved. The south side of the road is in Sunrise, the north side in Tamarac. Commercial is a state road. The county manages the road segment for the two cities. And the federal government runs the clinic.

"I want to see fingerpointing stopped," Doris Span told commissioners Thursday.

She said her husband "died on the street" because of the setup at the time. The county had a bus stop that dropped veterans off mid-block, with no crosswalk, to get to the clinic. The bus stop was immediately removed after the accident.

Span plans an all-day vigil at the site Oct. 2, the anniversary of her husband's death.

In other action, Broward commissioners Thursday:

• AIRPORT NOISE: Created a committee to disseminate information about a coming noise study around Hollywood International Airport. A new runway opened there two years ago. The following cities and towns will have a resident on the committee: Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Dania Beach, Plantation, Weston, Cooper City, and Southwest Ranches.

• ENVIRONMENTAL LAWSUIT: Asked the county attorney to evaluate a lawsuit filed by environmental and diving interests who say plans to dredge Port Everglades to a deeper depth to accommodate larger ships would harm coral reefs and shouldn't have won federal approvals. The case is Miami Waterkeeper, Center for Biological Diversity, Florida Wildlife Federation, Inc., and Diving Equipment and Marketing Association v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers et al.

• PORT IMPROVEMENTS: Enlarged by $17.7 million a project currently under design to lengthen the Southport "turning notch,'' a turnaround for cargo ships, from 900 to 2,400 feet, adding five more ship mooring berths. The total project cost now is $69.7 million, with the state paying 75 percent. The project required removal of 8.7 acres of mangroves, and construction of a new mangrove habitat elsewhere as mitigation.

• TAXI DRIVERS: Set a Sept. 27 final hearing to relax taxi and Uber driver standards so that a person convicted of fleeing the scene of an accident in the last seven years, a misdemeanor charge, could be considered for a chauffeur registration. Commissioners also amended a law Thursday so that registered drivers can undergo more rigorous, fingerprint-based county background checking at any time, rather than wait for the two -year renewal.

• TOWING CHARGES: Set a Sept. 27 final hearing to increase from 2.5 percent to 3 percent the fee a towing company can charge if the customer uses a credit card.

• CHARTER: Appointed Joseph Wells to the Charter Review Commission.

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