GULFPORT — The City Council voted not to put a four-way stop sign at 52nd Street S and Tangerine Avenue.
The stop sign was seen as the least expensive way to slow traffic after residents complained that cars go faster than the posted 20 mph speed limit, endangering children in the residential area between 49th and 54th streets.
The street now has a two-way stop sign.
Police Chief Robert Vincent told the council at its meeting last week that the Police Department considered three solutions — lower the speed limit, erect four-way stop signs or put a crossing guard there — during a study May 12-18.
Vincent said he found no justification for the proposed changes.
He said Florida dictates to cities what speed limits should be. It's 30 mph in residential areas. A city can deviate from that, but only after studying the area to show a change is necessary.
In its May study, Gulfport police counted cars and clocked their speeds. Vincent said there were 4,585 vehicles and that 85 percent of them were going 31 mph, which shows the speed limit is where it should be.
The appropriate speed limit on a road is based on either state mandate or the speed of 85 percent of its traffic, Vincent said. It has been found that 85 percent of drivers will drive at reasonable and safe speeds regardless of the posted limit, he said.
The necessity of crossing guards is also dictated by the state. If an intersection has no stop signs, there must be 360 cars an hour to make it an unsafe walking route for children. With stop signs, it requires 4,000 vehicles per hour. The corner of Tangerine and 52nd has 40 cars an hour, Vincent said.
"This location does not require a crossing guard to be safe," Vincent said.
Unlike speed limits and crossing guards, the mounting of stop signs comes under federal guidelines.
In a quest for continuity around the country, the U.S. Department of Transportation has guidelines for where stop signs should be placed based on volume of traffic and number of crashes at an intersection.
The Tangerine intersection falls far below federal numbers in both areas, Vincent said. It has 40 cars an hour (guidelines call for 300), and it had seven crashes in five years (guidelines call for five in one year in order to merit a stop sign).
"Stop signs are not to be used to control speed," Vincent said.
He warned council that the city could be sued for enforcement of inappropriate traffic laws.
The council voted 3-2 against erecting the sign.