MADEIRA BEACH — Concerns over safety and convenience for both pedestrians and drivers trying to cross busy Gulf Boulevard peppered a state Department of Transportation public hearing Tuesday.
The City Hall commission chamber was nearly filled with residents and business owners who were concerned that proposed medians and pedestrian crossings would make it difficult, if not impossible, to turn into or out of their homes or stores.
Others worried that insufficient lighting and warning signals to oncoming drivers would make it dangerous for pedestrians as well.
The hearing, conducted as a formal commission special meeting, was designed to give DOT engineers and planners ideas about how to address concerns when completing the road and median designs.
The median project is planned to be done at the same time as resurfacing of the entire roadway.
Raised medians with marked crosswalks are planned north of 131st Avenue, south of 133rd Avenue between 135th and Boca Ciega avenues, south of 137th and 141st avenues, and between 144th and 145th avenues.
Raised median islands are also planned south of 142nd Avenue, north of 147th Avenue and south of the Tom Stuart Causeway.
Eventually all crosswalks will have flashing yellow strobe lights to warn oncoming traffic that someone is trying to cross the road.
The project is scheduled to start in December, but could be delayed until the summer of 2014 if the city decides to go ahead with putting utilities underground along the section of Gulf Boulevard stretching from John's Pass Village to the Tom Stuart Causeway intersection.
"Doing construction during season will be pretty disruptive," said resident Jim Everett, urging delay.
Temporary median curbing installed in past months, particularly near John's Pass Village, evoked the most complaints and calls for the permanent medians to be shifted to other locations or redesigned to allow more cars to stack in the median area to wait for traffic to clear before proceeding onto Gulf Boulevard.
"Pedestrian safety goes up on roads with medians on them," said DOT spokesperson Kelli Bradley.
"The last thing we need is economic impact from people not wanting to come here and shop at our stores," said Doreen Moore, a resident and business owner.
One resident described trying to make a left turn across traffic a "disaster."
The city's community policing deputy suggested that medians should not be located close to bus stops, where gatherings of people could confuse drivers about whether they are trying to cross the road.
DOT selected the median and crosswalk locations based on studies indicating where the most people were trying to cross Gulf Boulevard, where accidents happen, and where pedestrians have been struck by passing cars.