Category Archives: Government

Funds Voted for Gulf-to-Atlantic Bike Trail

The appropriations bill being wrapped up in the Florida Legislature includes $50 million to complete a 275-mile bikeway from St. Petersburg to Titusville. The money’s for the Coast to Coast Connector, filling seven gaps between several existing trails. Imagine what $50 million could do for the planned Ludlam Trail in Miami’s south suburbs.

Several months ago, when the Office of Greenways and Trails aired its priorities around the state, we asked Jim Wood, who headed the agency at the time, why South Florida had fared so poorly as the state built an impressive series of trails upstate over the past 20 years or so. Each of those existing trails, he pointedly said, has had a local champion — generally an elected official — who led the way to show local authorities and lawmakers the value of the proposal. So the Ludlam needs a champion. Will it be you?

By the way, since Florida has a line-item veto there’s no guarantee the Coast-to-Coast Connector will go through until Gov. Rick Scott signs the bill. The project didn’t appear in the budget he submitted to the Legislature.

 

Senate Schedules Texting Bill

An anti-texting bill meant to cut down on distracted driving was added to the Florida Senate calendar today for its second reading. Look for action on SB52 next Tuesday, April 16, with a floor vote on third reading sometime later.  Amended versions have won unanimous approval in three Senate committees: Transportation, Communications, and Judiciary.  The bill would make texting a secondary offense, meaning police could add a texting charge if a driver was stopped for a greater offense.  The initial penalty would be small, but it could be stronger for repeat offenders.  The similar HB13 is awaiting second reading in the House, where the only vote against it so far was cast by Rep. Jimmy Patronis of Panama City.

Cellphone use by drivers, especially for texting, is increasingly cited as a cause of crashes on America’s streets and highways.  The Florida Bicycle Association and other bike advocates have made such legislation a priority for several years now.

You can follow the current bills and read their text, staff analyses, and legislative history at flsenate.gov and flhouse.gov.

County Seeks Tougher Hit-Run Law

The Miami-Dade County Commission adopted a resolution today calling for stronger state penalties for drivers who flee the scene of a car crash. The resolution, approved unanimously, was offered by Commissioner Jose Diaz. It is the latest response to the 364-day jail sentence handed Michele Traverso for killing bicyclist Aaron Cohen with his car on the Rickenbacker Causeway early last year.

When Traverso struck Cohen and his riding buddy, he was on his way home to Key Biscayne after a night out with pals in Coconut Grove. The crash happened at about 5:30 a.m., shortly the bar-closing hour in the Grove. Traverso wasn’t checked for intoxication, though, because his identity was unknown to police until hours later — by which time his body would have processed any alcohol in his blood.

He did plead guilty to leaving the scene of an accident, and apologized tearfully to Cohen’s family at his sentencing in January.  Circuit Judge William Thomas heeded the family’s request that Traverso be allowed to serve time in jail instead of a state prison in order that he be close to his longtime Miami physician. The doctor testified that Traverso has a rare hereditary ailment that can make him dangerously ill with little warning.

Pushback Against Hit-and-Run Growing

Ever since a Miami-Dade judge ordered a puny jail sentence for the hit-and-run driver who killed bicyclist Aaron Cohen on the Rickenbacker Causeway, a movement has been growing to more effectively punish drivers who flee the scene of a car crash.

The movement got a high-profile boost this week when Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose Diaz called for the Florida Legislature to set stiff mandatory prison sentences for hit-and-run. Just such a goal is the aim of an ad hoc committee convened by Dr. Michelina Witte, a triathlete who teaches in the University of Miami’s Sport Sciences Department. Witte’s group, including Cohen’s riding buddy Enda Walsh, set to work within days of Judge William Thomas’s handing down a 364-day jail term for Michele Traverso on January 17.

The Diaz resolution is on the County Commission’s preliminary agenda for Tuesday morning. We expect a commissioner or two at our Rocafort Memorial Ride this morning, so be sure and mention this when you see ’em. We’ll update this post if the item is postponed from Tuesday’s meeting. Meanwhile, you can follow the project on Twitter @FixLSA — as well as here.