The two friends survived, though Durden's left leg was shattered and is now covered in jagged scars. Her arms still bear the marks made by shards of glass. At 35 years old, she moves like an arthritic old lady. She even lost her job at the chicken spot. "Melvina used to be the life of the party," her sister Charlene says. "Not no more."

Durden filed suit against the FDOT and the company that installed the partitions, Munilla Construction, last year.

At least one other driver has sued the FDOT over an accident in 95 Express's chaotic early days. Three days after Durden's disaster, a 66-year-old Haitian-American woman named Clara Chery was driving her Toyota RAV4 with her aunt and nephew when she "found herself captive" in the lane, according to a 2010 lawsuit. When she slowed to follow a string of cars weaving out of the lane, she was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer. Chery, who says she suffered permanent injuries, claimed in the lawsuit that the FDOT failed to "maintain the roadway in a reasonably safe condition."

Her attorney, David Hagen, says, "Everyone in that car is fearful of driving the freeway now."

A contract filed as evidence in Durden's suit explains why 95 Express felt like a rush job: It was a rush job. As part of the $121 million agreement with Munilla, the FDOT paid an additional $50,000 for each day the lanes were completed ahead of deadline. "It's a sad example of putting profit over public safety," says Durden's attorney, Spencer Aronfeld. (Munilla Construction's president, George Munilla, did not return a message left seeking comment.)

Even Rory Santana, the candid FDOT district manager, admits "mistakes were made" in introducing the express lanes. He recalls watching cars "swerve all over the highway" on the giant screen in front of his office.

Department spokesperson Alicia Torrez, who declined to comment specifically about the pending litigation, says drivers have come to understand and respect the partitions — and the potential $100 fine for ignoring them.

The FDOT often touts that the 95 Express lanes, by reducing "friction" — cars disrupting the flow of traffic by slowing or stopping — have made the highway safer.

But don't ask for a statistical basis for the claim that 95 Express has reduced accidents. "We don't have any numbers to back that up," Torrez says bluntly. Neither the FDOT nor the Florida Highway Patrol keeps accident stats for the express lanes.

There are telling figures, though. Late every Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, an FDOT truck trawls I-95, replacing the plastic partitions — at a cost of $29 a pop — bulldozed by swerving drivers the week before.

In the total stretch of 16 miles north and south, the workers replace an average of 600 demolished pylons a week.

The FDOT trucks should be mighty busy by 2013, when the 95 Express lanes are set to stretch all the way to Davie Boulevard.

But don't bring your "Lexus lanes" crap to district manager Santana, who's tired of hearing it. "You try moving 300,000 cars on one of the country's biggest highways when you've got idiot drivers swerving all over the place and cutting people off," he rants in his Doral office.

"Sorry," he adds with an exasperated grin. "Now you're getting me fired up."

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
All
 
My Voice Nation Help
23 comments
Max
Max

"Major accident shuts down I-75? Raise the tolls! It's bonus time!"

Sheldon
Sheldon

the whole state should be toll free

david
david

I wish they would do us all a favor and admit they made a horrible mistake and return the road to the way it was. The only reason people in those express lanes go faster is that they exceed the speed limit by a significant degree. Maybe the cops should ticket those guys on occasion and raise some real money for the state/county/city. Oh wait, they can't because there's no place to pull the cars over.

Guest
Guest

They do ticket, but it's ridiculously dangerous. They should just close down the lanes and return I-95 to what it was originally

david
david

So with all the problems and congestion on I-95 the answer our genius politicians came up with was create an extra lane by making the other lanes narrower and removing the shoulder. Yes, I can see how that was supposed to make the road safer.

Lisa
Lisa

As a Seattlite, we see the same issues with our highway system, I can concur that the express lanes are a pain in the butt. However, as a former professional driver, people need to quit being in such a hurry, they need to pay attention to their surroundings, and if you're about to miss your exit, SAFELY go to the next one and turn around!

david
david

oh no it's much smarter to cut across all lanes of traffic to make the exit. or better yet...stop your car and go in reverse! i'm not sure if it's selfishness ("my time is more important than yours") or just low IQs that cause people to do that. probably an even split.

no whiners allowed
no whiners allowed

I'm sorry but these drivers are idiots the cones are clear DONT CROSS. If you miss your exit then you go to the next one and come back if you try to cross several lanes of traffic after going through the cones ILLEGALLY then you deserve whatever happens to you.

RollBackTolls
RollBackTolls

FDOT claims people should know instinctively to stay out of the Lexus Lanes when it reaches a high dollar amount. At least you have a choice and can stay on the "non-toll' lanes. Not, FREE, because we all pay a lot in gas tax for the "non toll" lanes. Learn more at www.RollBackTolls.com

Quian35
Quian35

Some people feels others are at fault on their lack of inteligence, common sense and abundant stupidity; and this article gives clear evidence of it. Many of them not even had a horse to ride on before coming to this country, much less they can read a road sign while they drive

Mrche
Mrche

i though i was alone one the bad haitian drivers thing..they really cant freaking drive.. plus more

Jorge Hurtado
Jorge Hurtado

seriously, the only reason all these accidents are happening is not bc of the express lanes. it's bc of the shitty miami drivers. i have lived here my whole life and nothing changes. specially the bad hatian drivers they get worse and worse every year... don't blame the roads when its the shitty drivers fault. maybe people should pay attention to what they are doing read the fucking signs and quit blaming others for their mistakes.

phudge1
phudge1

Maybe they should settle. Ask McDonalds!

Penny Minge Kamish
Penny Minge Kamish

I've worked in journalism and traffic management for years. My first point in the "slur" on Mr. Santana as "a troll". WOW, that''s not what I was taught to be "color" commenting. Next, having utilized the Express Lanes (I am not from SEFL area), they are well marked about limited access on and off. Perhaps people should pay more attention to the signs instead of their cell phones, iPods, etc. Express lanes are meant to help distribute traffic more evenly, and even the folks who say they cannot afford the Express lane costs, benefit, I would estimate, by at least 15% better speeds in the "free lanes" due to the folks transferring over to the Express Lanes. When I see a line of rubber "candlesticks" blocking access, the light bulb goes off for me..."oh, I shouldn't cut through those", and relative to the comment of the revenues not going for other projects, I say YAY! They estimated the costs of quick clearance vehicles, dedicated police, etc., instead of marking up the price additionally for other projects.This article by Mr. Garcia-Roberts strikes me as his "goal" being to do as negative an article as possible, regardless of any positive information he "uncovered". He succeeded! Oh, and if these Express Lanes are soooooo BAD, wonder why FDOT has won awards for such a well-run, efficient project. After all, we do run out of land and the ability to expand, so efficiency and management is the only way to accommodate the rapidly increasing number of motorists. SHAME ON YOU, Mr. Garcia-Roberts for your unprofessional slurs and lack of proper research.

anon_e_m00se
anon_e_m00se

And get run over by a Escalade ESV driving, texting while drinking a Starbucks coffee and reading the newspaper Miami driver.

Brandt A.
Brandt A.

I'm an FIU student and I don't drive. Everyday I take FIU's express bus that travels between the Biscayne Campus and the main campus. What I've been able to observe from being in the express lanes is that the southbound lanes have a much better implementation than the northbound lanes.

The majority of the traffic in the northbound express lanes is headed towards golden glades, and the exit is only two lanes - one lane for the express lane traffic, and one lane for the 'free lane' traffic. Southbound 95, however, has 5 lanes at the bottleneck - two for express lane traffic, and three for 'free lane' traffic. That's why the flow is so much better in the morning - the northbound lanes experience tight golden glades bottlenecking everyday, so it will always get up to $7.00.

As for the people who were injured during the early days of the lanes, I don't buy the whole "I was trapped" story. They should have just waited until it was safe to change lanes instead of being dumb and disrupting the flow of traffic and causing accidents.

And I do agree that the implementation of these lanes is misguided - encouraging people to commute from the burbs to their workplace is also encouraging car dependence - Miami doesn't need more cars on its roads. The 95 express bus is the only good thing that came out of this in my opinion.

Adam R
Adam R

As someone who must regularly commute from Miami Beach to Boca Raton at least once per week, I find the express lanes to be nothing short of a blessing. They are beyond helpful in getting passed to the Miami-Dade 1-95 traffic jams and into Broward County. I will gladly keep paying the tolls for use of those lanes and am certainly looking forward into their expansion in Broward. The one thing I do take issue with is where the toll money is going to. I would like to see the money being funneled back into the city, preferably into some sort of mass transit program.

anon_e_m00se
anon_e_m00se

I love the mentality of her feeling held "captive." The logical person just continues until they're able to exit and then backtracks. It's the same mentality that makes people slam on their brakes on the expressways when they realize they're going to miss an exit and then reverse to make the exit. Just go to the next one, head back the other direct, and then take your intended exit. Trust me that you're time isn't too important that you can't spare the 5 mins in order to not put everyone else at risk.

mahalo2011
mahalo2011

Stop being an apologist for government incompetence. FDOT could have carved out at least one additional exit for North Miami-Dade County commuters (e.g., Miami Shores, Biscayne Park, North Miami, etc.).

It is ridiculous that Miami-Dade residents are being inconvenienced within their own county so that Broward County residents can have an easier commute.

anon_e_m00se
anon_e_m00se

Refer to my third sentence: I'm referring to the typical mentality found on the roadways in Miami-Dade... both in, and out of, the high speed lanes.

As for apologist - you couldn't be further from the truth. They're bloody incompetent and I avoid I-95 like the festering plague it is. I commute daily from Miami-Dade to Broward for work and exclusively take the Turnpike, even though my office is east and more readily accessible from 95. On the other hand, every time I've take the express lanes they work as advertised and have saved me time. I'll gladly pay whatever freight they're asking if it saves me time.

What I will grant you is that there is a major design flaw in that there are no exits located around major population centers. All other states I've been to with HOV lanes have entry and exit points at strategic locations and there is no reason we don't have them in Miami-Dade.

Vic
Vic

The driver swerves and then looses control causing injury to the passenger (durden). give me a break and how is this the fault of dot. money hungry whor*s and most likely druggies to boot.

Jeanne
Jeanne

I have 0 sympathy for the morons who plow through the pylons.

mahalo2011
mahalo2011

And I have no tolerance for government incompetence.

 
Miami Concert Tickets
Loading...