A Fort Lauderdale engineer could lose her professional license for significantly under-estimating traffic counts for a much-publicized road narrowing project in Wilton Manors and Fort Lauderdale.
The Florida Board of Professional Engineers (FBPE) filed an administrative complaint in March against Christine W. Fanchi after Wilton Manors resident Boyd Corbin filed a complaint about Fanchi with the FBPE.
Corbin, a Wilton Manors activist who ran for mayor in November 2018 and lost, said he read Fanchi’s proposal for lane elimination and didn’t think the numbers made sense. The FBPE read her engineering report and agreed.
In question is the viability of a much-touted road narrowing project that has transformed Wilton Drive into a chaotic construction zone in the heart of the city’s downtown.
According to the complaint, Fanchi’s report was “materially deficient” because it grossly underestimated 2035 traffic volumes on the roadway. The report said traffic volume would increase 2.3-2.4 percent by 2035 when it should have said it would increase by 10.4 percent, the complaint states.
“The impact of this error is that traffic delays at all intersections in 2035 … will be materially greater than those set out in the report,” the complaint states.
An effort to reach Fanchi for comment was unsuccessful.
The underestimated traffic counts will mean intersection failure at the intersection of Wilton Drive and 13th Street, a Level of Service “F,” according to the complaint. The result would mean lengthy traffic delays and the likelihood of negative impacts on surrounding neighborhoods, the complaint stated.
Franchi is accused of failing to use “due care” by issuing a report that was “materially deficient.” Fanchi also failed to sign and date the report.
“The report said it would work for under 20,000 vehicles a day. Right now there are 20,000-22,000 vehicles a day. The report contradicted itself,” Corbin said.
The project to narrow Northeast Fourth Avenue/Wilton Drive from Sunrise Boulevard to Northeast 26th Street to two lanes began in August and has been criticized by both businesses and pedestrians.
The project includes 7-foot-wide bicycle lanes and will widen sidewalks, upgrade pedestrian signals and modify pedestrian curb ramps to meet ADA requirements, according to the Florida Department of Transportation. The project will also upgrade roadway and pedestrian lighting, include new drainage structures and upgrade the existing drainage system.
But motorists have complained the project has swallowed up scarce parking spaces, pedestrians say it has made walking dangerous and confusing, and some businesses are struggling to stay afloat because their entrances are obscured.
Supporters laud the project’s intent to slow motor vehicle traffic and beautify the downtown. But critics like Corbin fear it will cause gridlock.
“I requested the report because I wondered if it would work,” Corbin said. “They are really narrowing it from five lanes to two lanes. I thought it was too busy and it is. That was my hunch and that was verified by the traffic data.”
Wilton Manors Mayor Justin Flippen said this: “While we don’t know the final resolution of the inquiry into the engineering report, FDOT has confirmed that the Lane Elimination Application was reviewed by its engineers at the time it was submitted and approved. The jurisdiction of the operation of the road remains within FDOT’s scope of responsibility. FDOT has reported to us that it will not impact the complete street project in Wilton Manors.”
The Florida Board of Professional Engineers is requesting permanent revocation of Fanchi’s engineering license and the issuance of an administrative fine, placing Fanchi on probation and assessing her costs related to the investigation.
“I think that other engineers are going to take note of it and they are not going to play games with the traffic data,” Corbin said. “It was not just an oversight.”