A 26-year-old motorcyclist slowed his vehicle headed eastbound through the intersection of Northwest 39th Avenue and 13th Street. A white Sedan trailing behind did not reduce its speed.
The sedan collided with the rear of the motorcycle and what soon followed was a chain reaction of collisions. The Sedan left the scene of the accident before authorities arrived and the motorcyclist was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
Thankfully, the motorcyclist was wearing his helmet, according to David Chudzik, Gainesville Police Department public information officer. But the accident was illustrative of the dangers that await motorists at Northwest 39th Avenue and 13 Street.
“Certainly that area is sometimes concerning,” Chudzik said. “If you travel a lot you see the speed, especially going west on to 39th and north and south on 13th. People try to beat the lights, which unfortunately leads to accidents.”
Northwest 39th Avenue and 13th street may appear to be your average suburban intersection. First, it’s part of a community’s everyday lifestyle. But during Gainesville’s rush hour, this intersection seems like a demolition derby.
From Jan. 1, 2014, to May 31, 2022, the intersection has been the scene of 358 crashes. One resulted in the death of an 18-year-old Gainesville High School female student in June 2021.
And it’s a busy intersection.
Florida Traffic Online said the intersection’s annual daily traffic volume is 26,500 vehicles going west and 20,400 going east of Northwest 39th Avenue. That’s more than any other road located in the northern Gainesville area.
But the Florida Department of Transportation has plans to make the intersection safer. If approved by the FDOT later this summer, the proposed project would cost nearly $300,000 and not be fully complete until 2025.
The FDOT held a meeting at the St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, located at 2715 N.W. 39th Ave., in January to propose possible solutions to make the intersection safer. The meeting took place walking distance from the intersection and online via Zoom.
But only two people showed up in person. They looked at multiple charts provided by FDOT District 2. But then they left before the meeting was slated to begin.
The FDOT proposes to construct a new median along the eastbound and westbound Northwest 39th Avenue left turn lanes to 13th Street, and to extend the existing left turn lanes on 39th.
The medians themselves would be 350-feet-long. Currently, there is only a skinny, flat median separating the lanes from traffic driving in the opposite direction.
The intersection is regarded as one of the most dangerous in Alachua County.
But it is topped by Northwest 39th Avenue and 34th Street, which earns the distinction as the most dangerous intersection in Gainesville, according to the Law Offices of Logan T. Lawrence — a law firm that specializes in car accidents.
The law firm used data collected by Enjuuris.com, who used City-Data.com’s information based on fatalities in intersections around Gainesville.
Fifty-one sideswipes, 147 rear end smashes, 17 collisions involving pedestrians and bicyclists, and more than 100 Gainesville residents were injured in crashes surrounding the center of the intersection, which is the size of a community pool, according to an FDOT study of the intersection’s history from Jan. 1, 2014, to May 31, 2022.
The 358 accidents in the intersection alone makes up for 2.5% of all intersection accidents in Gainesville during the FDOT’s study, according to statGNV.
In the first 20 days of this year, six accidents occurred within 800 feet of the intersection.
Alachua County had 374 accidents in the entire month of January, according to Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
With it being surrounded by businesses and homes, Chudzik said the intersection itself is unique compared to an average intersection.
“It’s a mix of pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists,” Chudzik said.
In fact, the intersection is a hub to the surrounding community. Aldi, Walgreens, Chevron, Wells Fargo and the Publix Super Market at The Exchange shopping center are all located right across from one another on the intersection.
The Chevron is usually where retired Gainesville resident Warren Lang fuels up his old black Honda Accord while looking on at traffic. Since he has been living in Gainesville, the 74-year-old has witnessed two crashes where he fuels his vehicle.
With Gainesville’s population growing from 100,000 in 2000 to 146,104 today, according to World Population Review, more cars find themselves on the road, resulting in more road issues, Lang said.
“When I was coming up, yeah it was alright, but now traffic got thicker in Gainesville,” he said.
Even so, Lang is against the proposed plans and said the current medians in places through Northwest 39th Avenue do not need to be there at all. He believes they give no purpose, and if taken away, can provide an extension to the current left turning lane.
“The median doesn’t really serve, it just holds signs that say ‘I need money’,” Lang said. “They don’t need that median right there.”
Metric Engineering Inc., an engineering consulting firm, performed a safety analysis for the intersection in May 2022, to make field observations of the intersection and gather crash data for the past eight years.
The Metric analysis estimated the cost of the project would be $289,000.
Data from the analysis showed that 19% of the 358 collisions in the intersection recorded since 2014 were caused by left turns.
Twenty-six collisions were caused by left turning vehicles exiting Walgreens and attempting to go onto Northwest 39th Avenue.
The proposed traffic separators would block vehicles exiting the Walgreens and Wells Fargo entrances from turning left across Northwest 39th Avenue.
The cost for the proposed modifications is estimated to be $289,000, according to the safety analysis.
If approved, temporary barriers could be in place on Northwest 39th Avenue in the Fall of 2023.
In fall of 2024, permanent concrete would be placed for traffic separators and finished in Spring of 2025.
“If it actually makes it more safe, I’m all for it,” said Curtis Holdra, a retired 72-year-old Gainesville resident.