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State to study Lakewood Ranch intersection in wake of fatal crash

LAKEWOOD RANCH — A local woman will not soon forget Tuesday’s fatal crash at State Road 70 and Post Boulevard that will result in a 2010 traffic light study for that intersection.

Diana Staab was driving west on State Road 70 near the Lakewood Ranch Post Office when she saw flecks of light in the sky.

“I thought at first they were police lights and someone had been stopped for speeding, but then I realized those are blue and these were white,” Staab said.

The lights turned out to be sunshine hitting shattered window glass a few moments up ahead of her, creating prisms, Staab said.

The glass explosion occurred when a Honda driven by 85-year-old Josephine J. Malenich, of Tamarac, was hit by a Ford Expedition driven by Joanne J. Klinetop, 55, of Phoenix, N.Y.

Malenich ran a stop sign just before 11 a.m. at Post Boulevard and S.R. 70, according to a Florida Highway Patrol report, and was killed instantly when struck by Klinetop’s westbound SUV on S.R. 70.

“It is just very, very sad,” said Staab, who was an estimated 40 seconds behind the wreck, and pulled over and called 911. “My heart goes out to her family.”

Florida Department of Transportation officials said Wednesday the agency will take another look at the intersection, which includes State Road 70 running east and west and Post and Greenbrook boulevards running north and south.

The same site was studied in 2007 for a possible signal and it was determined that no traffic signal was warranted, Cindy Clemmons, a Florida Department of Transportation spokeswoman, said Wednesday.

In the 2007 study, counts ranged from 42 to 129 vehicles per hour turning left from Greenbrook Boulevard between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., Clemmons said.

One of the criteria that must be met for a traffic signal is traffic volume to exceed 105 vehicles per hour for eight hours of a standard weekday, Clemmons added.

“Only two hours exceeded the 105 vehicles per hour required.” Clemmons said. “We have scheduled a new warrant study for the 2010 peak season.”

The state crash data for that intersection shows two crashes in a period of three years and no fatal crashes before Tuesday.

Several post office customers said a traffic light is needed at the intersection because it is hard to judge speed and distance from the elevated “hump” motorists climb on Post Boulevard to reach the intersection of S.R. 70.

“They need a light there,” said Gary Roberts, of East Bradenton, a regular customer who has exited many times onto S.R. 70. “There are trucks coming down the road going 60 or 70 mph and I don’t think elderly people can always judge how fast the trucks are going.”

Robin Adair, of Lakewood Ranch Country Club, said vehicles seem to use the high bank from the hump to be able to maintain their speeds, like a race car on a banked race track.

“That fatality was horrific, but I wasn’t surprised,” Adair said. “I think you need either a traffic light or a flashing light alerting traffic that people might be exiting a road.”

Tuesday’s fatality was a case of a right-of-way violation, said FHP Lt. Chris Miller.

“What it boils down to is that she pulled out in front of oncoming traffic,” Miller said. “Regardless of the intersection, you have to be careful when you are pulling out.”