TREASURE ISLAND — A new traffic light at Gulf Boulevard and 104th Avenue, an intersection the city says is dangerous for both vehicles and pedestrians, should be installed and operating early next year.
The city has received "numerous complaints" from drivers and pedestrians reporting "near misses" as cars and other vehicles attempt to turn through the intersection.
Cars frequently back up as they try to enter or exit Gulf Boulevard to access the new Publix Supermarket on 104th Avenue. Finding a break in busy traffic can often take a long wait.
Pedestrians regularly cross the four-lane intersection as they are going to or coming from the public beach park on the west side of Gulf Boulevard.
A traffic study done in March 2009 counted 2,536 pedestrian crossings between the public beach park and Publix on just one Saturday.
Despite the yellow warning signs and striped pedestrian crossing, cars frequently ignore pedestrians and bicyclists trying to cross Gulf Boulevard. On two occasions observed last summer, cars failed to stop or screeched their brakes at the last minute to avoid hitting pedestrians.
"We have had a couple of minor traffic accidents at the intersection, but no pedestrians have been injured at that location — yet," City Manager Reid Silverboard said Tuesday.
On Tuesday, the City Commission is expected to authorize hiring the engineering firm Volkert and Associates to design the new traffic light and coordinate permitting with the state Department of Transportation.
A special permit is required because the intersection is only about 1,000 feet south of a major traffic signal at Gulf and Causeway boulevards, less than the 1,340 feet normally required by DOT.
Although DOT agreed the intersection needs a traffic light, the agency did not feel the conditions are a high enough priority to qualify for state funding, according to Jim Murphy, the city's public works director.
The city estimates it will cost about $275,000 to design and install the light.
"We have received verification from Publix that they will pay for half the cost up to $300,000," Murphy told the commission last week. "We hope the light will be in service by the end of the first quarter of 2011."
Commissioner Phil Collins questioned why the initial plans do not call for turn or stacking lanes.
"That is going to be a major source of problems for people wanting to turn on 104th. I am picturing cars backing up in the left lane. Some people will get agitated sitting there waiting for the light to change," Collins said.
Silverboard said the cost of redesigning the entire intersection would be prohibitive — about $1 million — an amount the city cannot afford and that DOT may not have in its budget for years.
"Just having traffic stopped on the other side would really open up the flow," said Commissioner Gail Caldwell. "It's not ideal, but it's better than what we have now."