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Longboat Key Wednesday, Apr. 20, 2016 6 years ago

Commission on crosswalks: Get 'em out of the town

Longboat Key town commissioners have found consensus on the controversial crosswalk issue — get rid of them.
by: Alex Mahadevan News Innovation Editor

A Longboat Key Town Commission workshop discussion about a new crosswalk at North Shore Road Monday ended with commissioners agreeing that they would like all of the controversial traffic features removed — at least in their current form.

At their next regular meeting, board members will vote on whether to send a letter to the Florida Department of Transportation requesting the removal — or substantial modifications — on all four crosswalks on the 11-mile stretch of Gulf of Mexico Drive. Commissioners don’t want the state’s proposed north-end crossing unless it comes with a reduced speed limit, though they said they would still support an expanded sidewalk on the roadway.

“I am very willing right now to say let’s take them out,” said Mayor Jack Duncan, who led the push for an informal agreement on the move after about an hour of discussion. “Lock, stock and barrel.”

Town Manager Dave Bullock in an interview Tuesday said he would speak with FDOT officials, and present potential options for improving the crosswalks. 

Commissioner Phill Younger called for larger red flashing lights on signage at the workshop.

But the impact of Monday’s consensus is unclear.

“We can’t give opinions on possibilities,” said FDOT spokesman Robin Stublen. “We have to have stuff cut in stone.”

The agency declined to comment on the issue until the Town Commission adopts a formal position at a regular meeting.

“It’s a very bold decision,” said Duncan, who acknowledged he was in favor of the idea when commissioners pushed for them three years ago.

Since FDOT installed the crosswalks in December, a vehicle has struck a pedestrian, and residents — including several commissioners — have complained of cars refusing to stop when the lights are flashing and pedestrians crossing near, but not on, the crosswalk.

“I wasn’t a big fan of putting in crosswalks in the first place,” said Vice Mayor Terry Gans. “My belief is that people cross where they want to cross.”

“I am very willing right now to say let’s take them out. Lock, stock and barrel.” — Longboat Key Mayor Jack Duncan on crosswalks

The workshop discussion stemmed from FDOT’s announcement of a $175,000 project that would place a sidewalk on the north end of Gulf of Mexico Drive and install a new crosswalk with more intense signage than the others on the island. 

“My fear is that someone is going to cross that street, and at 45 mph, they’re going to get hammered into oblivion,” Duncan said.

An interactive video designed by IT Specialist Barry Gaines — which took roughly a day to make — explained how the crosswalk would function.

But the video didn’t convince commissioners, who remained opposed to the crosswalk.

Commissioners remained in favor of reducing the speed limit from Boardwalk to the Longboat Pass Bridge, with some calling for a reduction for the entire stretch of Gulf of Mexico Drive.

Public Works Director Juan Florensa said FDOT keeps lighting uniform throughout the state, so red flashers are unlikely. But the state is conducting a study that could support lowing the speed limit on Gulf of Mexico Drive.

Commissioners asked Longboat Key Police Chief Pete Cumming what he thought of the crosswalks during the meeting.

“I honestly don’t believe personally that crosswalks on a 45 mph-speed highway are a good idea,” Cumming said.

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