Local 10 News confronts Gov. Rick Scott about safety concerns along I-95 express lanes

Scott says state will do everything possible to keep people safe

By Jeff Weinsier - Investigative Reporter

MIAMI - For the past month, Local 10 News has been reporting on the safety concerns that state troopers and drivers have regarding Interstate 95 express lanes. 

There have been a record number of crashes on the interstate, a number of which have been fatal, and some troopers said they cannot do their jobs safely.

Local 10 News took some of those concerns to Gov. Rick Scott.

"Absolutely, the most important thing you can do is make sure everybody in our state is safe," Scott said.

However, Trooper Joe Sanchez is among those troopers who don't always feel safe on the job. 

"I always say that there is no traffic stop worth anybody's life," Sanchez said.

Trooper William Smith agrees.

"You really don't want to stop people against the wall," he said.

Scott said that these worries are on his radar, and he believes the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, along with the Florida Department of Transportation, "are very focused on the public safety."

Local 10 News has reported that when express lanes were added in Miami-Dade County, the shoulder shrank, leaving only a few places for troopers to pull someone over safely or for drivers to fix a flat.

There are also drivers who go over the poles that separate the express lanes from the regular lanes, a move that has resulted in some fatal crashes.

"The right way is the way we're doing it," Scott said, adding that heads of Florida's transportation departments have a good working relationship and meet often. "...I believe that the people that work in our Department of Transportation and Highway Safety, they want people to be safe." 

While state and federal tax dollars paid for I-95 lanes, drivers are being charged for traveling on express lanes, and the FDOT claims funding has been unable to keep up with ongoing maintenance costs.

The latest numbers show that, in March, the I-95 express lanes generated $3.44 million, a  $770,000 increase from February.

In the first three months of 2016, the FDOT has generated about $9 million, and $133.4 million in tolls have been paid since the express lane tolls were installed six years ago.

The latest report from the FDOT states that vehicles on I-95 maintain a speed above 45 mph for 96 percent of the time, which is the department's goal.

"No one wants their taxes to go up, and so this is a better way of paying for it," Scott said of the express lanes.

Smith said that state officials may say things run smoothly on the highway a majority of the time, "but they are not out here."

"We're going to keep our law enforcement safe (and) everyone on our highways safe," Scott said.

However, troopers who spoke to Local 10 News said they have not been asked what might help make things better for them.

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