TREASURE ISLAND — Crossing Gulf Boulevard anywhere on the beaches is daunting and often dangerous — a task the state Department of Transportation hopes to make a bit easier and a lot safer.
The DOT will reveal plans Tuesday morning for more than $200,000 in improvements at a number of crosswalks in Treasure Island, Madeira Beach and Redington Beach.
The public hearing will begin at 10 a.m. at the Treasure Island Community Center at 1 Park Place and 106th Avenue. Those unable to attend can participate an online public hearing at the following site: tinyurl.com/dotmeeting.
The DOT wants public reaction to its plans to install, move and/or upgrade pedestrian crosswalks and median refuges at 11 intersections along Gulf Boulevard, as well as the installation of a left-turn lane at Madeira Way.
The final design and placement for the medians and crosswalks will be completed based on public comment at the hearing. Construction is planned to begin by fall.
Each crosswalk will include fluorescent yellow-green pedestrian warning signs as well as new pedestrian-activated flashing beacons.
The road will be painted with ladder-style crosswalk markings and warnings to motorists that they are approaching pedestrian crossings.
Median improvements are planned at 100th, 108th, 124th-125th, 130th, 155th, 157th, 158th, 160th, 162nd, 163rd, and 164th avenues.
The left-turn lane at Madeira Way will make it much easier for northbound traffic to turn into Archibald Park, according to Madeira Beach Mayor Travis Palladeno, who pressed the DOT to add the project to its 2012 budget.
Currently, northbound beachgoers must drive past the park entrance and do a U-turn or turn east at Tom Stuart Causeway and then turn back west on Madeira Way to get into the park.
Some of the planned medians may prove controversial for residents and business owners concerned that access to their homes and businesses may be blocked.
One median in Madeira Beach has already stirred some protest from residents who spoke at a commission workshop Wednesday.
The median planned at Gulf Boulevard and 155th Avenue at the city's northern boundary may restrict emergency vehicle access to a nearby condominium.
The city's fire department planned to test the turning radius Friday and report its findings at Tuesday's hearing.
Concerns over pedestrian safety along Gulf Boulevard have grown over the years.
In 2008, a DOT study found that an average of 14 pedestrian-involved crashes occur each year along Gulf Boulevard.
The study found that most pedestrian fatalities on Gulf Boulevard happen between 6 p.m. and midnight, with just over one-third of pedestrians under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Over the past few years, DOT, in conjunction with county and local officials, embarked on a number of engineering, enforcement and education programs to improve pedestrian safety.
Those efforts included reducing the speed limit from 40 to 35 mph, installing neon yellow warning signs at crosswalks, and erecting buckets filled with reflective flags on both sides of 31 midblock crosswalks along 13.5 miles of Gulf Boulevard from Indian Rocks Beach to St. Pete Beach.
Drivers are ticketed for failing to stop when a pedestrian has stepped into the road at a crosswalk. Pedestrians are ticketed for jaywalking outside designated crosswalks.
But accidents involving pedestrians continue to occur.
In September 2010, three pedestrians were hit when crossing Gulf Boulevard, all outside designated crosswalks. Two were killed.
Last August, a multicar pileup occurred in Belleair Beach when cars failed to stop for a pedestrian crossing Gulf Boulevard.
The proposed raised median providing a two-stage crossing refuge is expected to result in a 46 percent reduction in pedestrian crashes, according to Peter Hsu, a DOT engineer.