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Longboat Key Friday, Jan. 15, 2021 1 month ago

Longboat commissioners plan to discuss crosswalk upgrades

Safety improvements under consideration for Gulf of Mexico Drive traffic features.
by: Eric Garwood Managing Editor

Town commissioners plan to discuss pedestrian crossings on Gulf of Mexico Drive next week, considering the possibility of safety upgrades to the often-maligned traffic features.

In their planned Tuesday workshop, commissioners expect to hear a presentation that follows up on a meeting in December between town staff and Florida Department of Transportation officials about the town’six so-called Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons.

Drivers are required to stop when the lights are activated and pedestrians are present, but complaints reach police and town officials on a consistent basis about “near misses,’’ Isaac Brownman, the town’s public works director, wrote in a memo to Town Manager Tom Harmer.

Overhead street lights are designed into the town’s plans at crosswalks as part of the underground utilities project underway now.

Additionally, town staff recommends town leaders consider adding  in-pavement lights that activate in conjunction with the existing lights when a pedestrian pushes the button to cross.

Among the other ideas floated by FDOT:

  • Raised crosswalks that would serve essentially as 35 mph speed humps on Gulf of Mexico Drive.
  • An additional set of signs and flashing lights in advance of the actual crosswalk
  • Slim, vertical signs placed in the center of the road that alert approaching drivers to a crosswalk.
  • Enhanced law enforcement
Vehicles are required to stop when the lights are activated and pedestrians are present.

The streetlight recommendation is already part of the town’s plan to install new lighting along Gulf of Mexico Drive. The addition of in-pavement lighting would cost an estimated $4,000 per crosswalk to install and would be the town’s responsibility to maintain after a two-year warranty. Funding sources and timing have not been considered.

The crosswalks as they exist now were recommended in 2013 in an Urban Land Institute report, in addition to medians where feasible. FDOT added the crosswalks but not the medians.

Two months after the crosswalks were installed in 2016, a resident was struck trying to make it across Gulf of Mexico Drive near the entrance to Country Club Shores IV.  A police report said the driver failed to yield.

Responding to then-town manager Dave Bullock’s letter demanding FDOT  “make corrections to these crosswalks so that our citizens can safely use them, or if your staff doesn’t know how to fix them, remove them …” FDOT presented a layout for additional signs instructing pedestrians how to use the signals. The town expedited the process and purchased the signs itself.  

Commissioners also are scheduled to further discuss the Town Center's future plans and receive an update on the underground-utility project. 

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