All 156 miles of Florida's Turnpike are slated to have center barriers by July 2005.
OCOEE - The state has agreed to speed up the construction of center guardrails along Florida's Turnpike in the central part of the state, where several fatal crashes have occurred in the past few months.
By July 2005, all 156 miles of the turnpike, from Fort Pierce in St. Lucie County to Wildwood north of Orlando, will have guardrails to prevent drivers from crossing into oncoming traffic. The new schedule was set Friday.
Chief operating officer Christopher Warren said Florida's Turnpike Enterprise has been trying for months to tighten the schedule.
He said the new timetable was made possible by careful scheduling of engineering and construction-contractor work, not by the recent spate of accidents or mounting criticism.
"We're very much horrified to see the spike in accidents," Warren said. "This is something we've been working through since September, in examining the work schedules. It's not dollar-driven or a political decision or anything like that."
State Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, who has been urging state officials to accelerate the guardrail program, applauded the news but scoffed at the notion that political and public pressure had no bearing.
So far this year, 21 people have died in 18 crossover accidents on the turnpike.
The 21 fatal crossover crashes account for 30 percent of all fatal turnpike accidents, double the percentage of 2002.