Drivers claim sudden merger on I-95 in Broward causes gridlock

Fast lane suddenly disappears, forces traffic to abruptly merge right

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – Some drivers claim the Florida Department of Transportation has created more of a hazard with unexpected and unusual lane shifts on Interstate 95 in Broward County.

The plastic poles dividing the I-95 express lanes from the general purpose lanes have been up in Broward County for several weeks now.

Drivers heading northbound on I-95 approaching Griffin Road are now seeing a sign that reads, "Lane ends 900 feet."

Then, in 900 feet, one of the fast lanes suddenly disappears, forcing high-speed traffic in that left lane to abruptly merge right.

"You are not used to merging in the fast lane, so all of a sudden someone is braking and someone is doing above the speed limit and creates a major issue," one driver told Local 10 News.

The merger was part of adding express lanes in Broward County.

Drivers claim the lane drop causes a bottleneck. They claim there is a wall of traffic as vehicles approach the merge and backups where there were no daily backups before.

"No matter what time of the day," another driver said. "It used to be the 5 o'clock rush hour, but now it's anytime -- 3 o'clock, 1 in the afternoon."

Drivers who spoke to Local 10 News said that since the plastic poles were installed in Broward County, the flow of traffic has decreased. In many areas, five general purpose lanes go down to four and, in some areas, down to three.

Many drivers said they often sit at a standstill in general purpose lanes, while the express lanes are mostly empty.

Local 10 News cameras spotted several drivers "lane diving," driving over the plastic poles to get either in or out of the express lanes.

Lane diving has caused serious and fatal crashes in Miami-Dade County.

"I have been cut off four times," a driver stopped at a gas station on Stirling Road told Local 10 News.

The number of crashes in the area of this lane drop has doubled.

In the first four months of this year, Road Rangers were called to 101 crashes, northbound from Stirling Road to Interstate 595.

In the same area in 2015, there were 54 crashes.

There is also a lane drop southbound on I-95 before Ives Diary Road.

Private traffic engineers said part of good road design is not to do something that is "unnatural" to the driving public.

Some drivers said that is exactly what this "merge right" in the fast lane does.

"Anytime there is a change on any road, it does take a little getting used to," FDOT engineer district consultant John Olsen said.

Olsen was one of the engineers who worked on the 95 express lane design in Broward County.

"The lane drop does not cause traffic, no," Olsen said.

But wouldn't losing a lane, especially in the fast lane, cause traffic to slow down and back up?

"Yes, when there is one less lane," Olsen said. "Yes, that could impend the flow."

The FDOT has received about two dozen complaints and will be monitoring the situation in Broward County.