City Commissioners discuss golf cart crossings

Opening up the Tuesday, March 8 meeting of the Madison City Commissioners, Jim Catron led his fellow commissioners and their audience through prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance.

After adopting the agenda, the commissioners approved and removed the item in regards to Florida’s gas line partnership.

Moving on to further business, the commissioners and Town Manager Tim Bennett discussed golf cart crossings.

It became an animated meeting between commissioners as varied opinions and suggestions were passed around regarding the crossing of golf carts over Hwy 90 in Madison.

The history of this item has long roots that go back as far as 2013, as the City of Madison acquired the services of Madison Engineering to evaluate potential golf cart crossings at several intersections.

Much of the roads that were evaluated have been deemed too dangerous to place a golf cart crossing; the only one that posed a possible chance was the intersection of U.S. Hwy 90 and Range St.

However, according to many of the commissioners, even that posed a safety hazard.

Bennett himself was not in support of the installation of an official golf cart crossing, saying that while it was approved by the Department of Transportation (as long as various signs, street markings and studies were supplied prior and following installation of the crossing), it still seemed unsafe.

After years of studying various intersections and deeming them hazardous, it was recommended that the city study the intersection of Range St. and Hwy 90; while the intersection proved unsafe to a lesser degree, Bennett voiced that the traffic count still was fairly high.

The DOT guideline specified that a maximum allowance of vehicles in peak hour is 200 and the Average Daily Traffic count (ADT) amount for the intersection should only be about 1,500 vehicles. According to the city’s studies, the ADT vehicle count for that intersection was 4,961 and the peak hour count was 408 vehicles; both numbers were much higher than the recommended limit for safe crossing.

“Based upon safety concerns, I recommend no golf carts to cross across U.S. 90 and Range or any other street,” said Bennett.

Costs of further studies and of installing crossing equipment were debated, but eventually the concerns of liability for the city and the safety of the citizens continued to reappear.

Mayor Thompson spoke, regarding that she has been asked many times regarding the men who ride their lawn mowers or electric wheelchairs around town and frequently cross Hwy 90.

“How can that be legal and golf carts are held to one standard and these people in lawn mowers are not?” Mayor Thompson asked. “Personally, I don’t see a problem with a golf cart because they know [when] to cross.”

Commissioner Cooks responded back with concerns with liability if the city establishes a place for golf carts to cross and a large vehicle has a collision with a golf cart at that supposed ‘safe crossing’ place.

City Attorney Clay Schnitker agreed with her stance saying that the city is ‘less liable’ if there is no verified ‘safe spot’ for crossing.

Mayor Thompson was not persuaded, as she continued to press that many other cities have golf cart crossings without issues.

“We will be getting more golf cart [drivers] in the future,” Mayor Thompson continued.   “Then they can cross at their own risk,” said Commissioner Cooks. “Just like everyone else, the [bicyclists] or lawnmower [drivers].”

At that moment, Brent Whitman, a consultant from Madison Engineering, LLC., came to the podium to express his comments regarding the surveying that his company had done in regards to the crossing.

Whitman stated that a lot of time and even more money had been spent on the surveying and consideration of the crossing.  While Whitman considered the crossing a generally unsafe prospect, he also felt like it wasn’t an idea to discard entirely.

“If there is any inkling of wanting to do this, there are places that I think could be compromised,” said Whitman.

Ideas were tossed around whether putting time restrictions on crossing allowance could be permitted and any crossing outside of the set time would result in ticketing.

The debate, however, returned to the fact that liability would still be an issue and leaving an open crossing for golf cart drivers to partake in at their own risk felt like the best alternative to many of the commissioners as it would deter most drivers from crossing Hwy 90.

“I’d just hate to see an accident happen [involving a golf cart],’ said Commissioner Cooks. “It would be a no-win situation.”

The argument went back and forth regarding safety, implications of the lawful actions of installing or not installing the crossing as well as the desires of the public.

In the end, no decision was made but instead the commission opted to vote to see if there was a movement to spend more money on signs and a deeper study on the safety of installing a crossing.

Commissioner Catron volunteered to lead the motion but it died after there was no second.

The meeting ended with the announcement of a special meeting on Tuesday, March 22 at 5:30 p.m. in regards to the tractor-trailer interests.

The City Commission meets the second Tuesday of every month at 5:30 p.m. in the Madison City Hall, located on 321 SW Rutledge St. in Madison.

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