Dan Guigere died at the scene of an accident on U.S. Highway 41 in February. He lost control of his car and crossed over into the opposite lane of traffic and struck a pick-up truck, according to multiple news reports.
But students at the USF Sarasota-Manatee (USFSM) campus are concerned about U.S. Highway 41, also known as the Tamiami trail, the road directly across the campuss main entrance.
Andrew Gould, a senior majoring in management and USFSMs student body president, said there have been seven traffic accidents in the last seven years outside the main entrance of the Sarasota-Manatee campus, and three people have died in those accidents. The seven-lane highway currently has no median, crosswalks or traffic signals to assist students when crossing the street to reach the nearest Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) bus stop.
A petition started last week by Stephanie Hames, a senior majoring in international studies and USFSM student government vice president, is now asking Governor Rick Scott to approve of the installation and activation of a traffic light at the campus entrances driveway.
According to the petition, the mass transit buses do not stop directly on campus because there is no traffic signal for them to safely access our main entrance driveway.
Hames said students refer to U.S. Highway 41 as a suicide lane, and students often find it a challenge to cross the highway while on their way to classes.
Its almost like youre playing a game of Frogger in a car with people driving way faster than the speed limits posted, Hames said. So students get quite nervous coming to class.
The fight for a traffic light began last summer when Gould and Hames said they constantly heard students complaining about the highway.
Its kind of always been an issue since the campus was built, Gould said.
Student government at USFSM contacted the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to find out what would need to happen in order for a traffic light to be installed at the campuss main entrance.
Gould said FDOT conducted their own study and told the USFSM Student Government there was not enough traffic flow at the intersection for a traffic light to be installed.
We dont happen to know when they measured it, but of course with block scheduling, you dont have even traffic flow, Gould said. You have heavy traffic flow at certain times.
Gould said at the Sarasota-Manatee campus heaviest traffic flow of the day begins around 5 p.m., with rush hour and evening classes beginning at that time.
We absolutely do have a huge traffic flow, but the previous studies (were) done and we were denied based on that, Gould said. After we got that (response), we started to go higher and higher, saying Who has the authority to make a call? and to (see who can) say Yes, go ahead, heres an exception to the rule, make this traffic light happen, and so far weve come up short.
Being unsatisfied with the response they received from FDOT, Gould said he and Hames started contacting local and federal legislators, including Rep. Vern Buchanan and a transportation committee chair, to try to raise support.
Were trying to figure out what angle we can kind of come at it (from), because where were located is really close between the Sarasota county and Manatee county line, Hames said. You have Sarasota County and Manatee County dealing with it, but its a federal highway, so its proving to be a very interesting situation.
When the petition went live, USFSM student government decided to reach out to Governor Scott about their petition.
The theory is that Governor Scott is the boss of the transportation secretary, so he should be able to say Do it, Gould said.
The problem, Gould said, is not a financial one.
In 2005, the state of Florida paid $469,618 in concurrency fees, fees paid to assist with the construction of roads, mass transit, schools and parks in developing areas, in support of a signalized intersection outside of the Sarasota-Manatee campus.
The state of Florida paid the county of Manatee to build some sort of civilization, whether its a median or whatever it might be, Gould said. You know when you build a campus you have to pay for infrastructure changes around the campus. Weve paid almost a half a million dollars basically for this project.
With the money put aside already, Gould said he is unsure as to why a change cannot be made.
Were really trying to put the pressure on anybody and everybody involved in the process, Gould said. This is insane. People are getting in accidents and dying in front of a college campus when theres no money issue, and none of us really get why theres such a big problem here.
The petition has gathered 837 signatures and is 163 signatures away from reaching its goal of 1,000.
Students expressed their concerns on the petitions webpage, leaving comments about their own experiences with the highway.
I am currently an international student. Last year I did not have a car and I had to use the bus and it was a terrible experience to cross the street, one comment said. I do not want other students go (sic) through the same thing like me, hopefully it will be better for them.
Gould said Student Government plans to reach out to local media outlets over the next couple of weeks to ensure their message is heard.
If we could get Tampa students to jump on board and help their fellow Bulls out by taking 30 seconds and signing this petition, it would make a big difference for us, Gould said.
The petition can be found online at www.change.org.