The future of the Las Olas “fence” is in your hands!
For those of you wondering about the debacle on Las Olas Boulevard with the installation of the metal “barrier-type” fence, I have news for you. Florida Department of Transportation called me today and gave me the “scoop” on the fence and what the next steps are. If you don’t like what you see out there, this is one mess you can do something about.
First the background:
1. Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has been working with the City since 2007 on planned safety and pavement upgrades (including a new fence) along Las Olas Boulevard, with construction to start in June (this month).
2. Our City Engineer (in March this year) had concerns about the appearance of the FDOT fence.
3. FDOT suggested that the City come up with their own design for a fence that was more aesthetically pleasing. As long as it met FDOT’s safety parameters, and the City was willing to pay for the design and maintenance, the City could do something different, as long as the decision was made before June.
4. At that point (around April), the issue was booted up to the City Manager’s office to decide what to do.
5. The City Manager did nothing. He sat on the issue, not telling the Commission of the impending construction, the fence, or the options the City could select from in lieu of the ugly metal barrier-type fence.
6. Because FDOT heard nothing from Fort Lauderdale, they started construction.
7. When construction began last week and people began to ask “What’s going on?”, the Mayor and Commission all assumed that FDOT started without notifying the City. They had no idea that the City Manager had actually with-held the information about the project.
But he had. (Apparently, he’s been too busy looking for his next job to keep the Commission informed.)
So now we have an ugly fence along the most beautiful roadway in Fort Lauderdale. What are our options now?
Michael E. Bienvenu, (FDOT’s Director of Transportation Operations) called me today and gave me an update on the available options and the safety issue. Our Commission has scheduled a discussion of these options at their Commission meeting on July 7th. Here is what Michael told me:
As a follow up to our conversation earlier this afternoon, below are the Department’s offers currently on the table for the City of Ft. Lauderdale:
* The Department offered to powder coat the handrail black at the Department’s expense if the City of Fort Lauderdale is willing to sign a maintenance agreement to maintain the handrail after completion of the project. The maintenance agreement is the same requirement for all local agencies wishing to upgrade our standard designs within their respective jurisdictions. The difference here is that the Department normally requires the local agency to fund the powder coat upgrade but in this circumstance the Department will cover that cost within the existing project.
* The city will notify the Department by end of business on July 8 if it chooses to accept the Department’s offer to powder coat the handrail to allow for the next scheduled city commission meeting on July 7.
* Should the city decide to go forward with the powder coating, then the existing handrail will be removed and replaced with temporary railing and then re-installed with the powder coating prior to completion of the project.
* The sight distance issues were addressed last week and our construction staff will review the design and construction to assure that all safety considerations are met.
* The City of Ft. Lauderdale may upgrade to decorative handrail through the Department’s permitting process at the city’s expense as long as the design and construction meet the Department’s minimum safety requirements and specifications. In addition, the city will have to agree to maintain the decorative handrail following installation.
Please feel free to contact me at any time regarding this or any other FDOT projects.
Michael E. Bienvenu, PhD, PE
Director of Transportation Operations
3400 W. Commercial Blvd.
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33309
Apparently, Albert Carbon (Fort Lauderdale’s Head of Public Works) is taking the lead on this matter now (since City Manager Gretsas screwed it up). Carbon has already obtained the design parameters from FDOT to see what flexibility we have to put something attractive along Las Olas, and will report to the Commission on July 7th. The Commission will have to make a decision that night on what option to select. FDOT has given them till the end of business the following day.
If the City selects the upgrade option by then and agrees to pay for the difference in maintenance & design cost, FDOT will give us as much time as we need to “do it right” and come up with something that adds value to the roadway. THAT’s the solution we should go with. Given our bloated budget and millions being wasted every year on frivolous purchases, this is something that we should spend money on! It will benefit all of us!
So there you have it. Because the Commission works for you, you need to tell them what to do. If you don’t like that fence, send an email to Mayor Seiler (email@example.com ) , and to District Commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom (firstname.lastname@example.org), and tell them what you think they should do. (ie: “Design and install a truly beautiful fence that could be seen as artwork for Las Olas!”) Let me know if they tell you anything interesting and I’ll post it for others to see. With your active involvement here, we might just be able to turn this mess around.