TREASURE ISLAND — Eighteen months after a pedestrian was killed crossing Gulf Boulevard, the city is poised to spend more than $300,000 for a new traffic signal and crosswalks that officials hope will significantly improve pedestrian safety.
Last week, the commission approved a $204,905 bid to install a new traffic signal at 104th Avenue and Gulf Boulevard, where the city says pedestrians frequently walk to and from the city's Beach Park and a nearby Publix grocery store.
Cars trying to enter or exit Gulf Boulevard to access Publix are frequently forced to wait long periods for a break in traffic, further complicating pedestrian traffic across the road.
Publix is contributing $125,000 to the cost of the new traffic signal.
"We are really excited about the signal at 104th. It has been a work in progress getting DOT on board," said Jim Murphy, the city's director of public works.
Next week, the commission is expected to approve spending $108,000 more to build five crosswalks allowing pedestrians to cross more safely to the city's most heavily used beach access points.
The new Gulf Boulevard pedestrian crosswalks will be at 126th, 123rd, 119th, 103rd and 99th avenues.
Each of the new crossings will include landscaped median refuges as well as flashing lights on either side of the road to warn oncoming traffic that people are in or about to cross the intersection.
The refuge islands in the northern end of the city will be able to accommodate three or four people, Murphy said, but those in the southern portion of Gulf Boulevard will be smaller because the road is narrower.
The cost of four of the five upgraded pedestrian walkways will be paid out of a $605,000 grant the city received in 2001 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in recompense for damage caused by a 1993 oil spill.
In addition to the new crosswalks, the NOAA funds were used for purchasing and developing the Sunset Vista trailhead park, as well as covering most or all of the costs for other beach-related projects including beach access signs, installation of turtle-friendly solar LED lighting, bicycle racks, trash cans and educational signs describing beach plants, animals and birds.
Meanwhile, the LPA Group, the city's traffic engineering consultants, are recommending installation of a sixth crosswalk at 120th Avenue, a potentially dangerous spot where beachgoers and residents frequently cross Gulf Boulevard to reach a convenience store.
"There is a lot of pedestrian activity here. It's a busy road with a lot of traffic. Because of the curve Gulf Boulevard makes at this point, it is difficult for pedestrians to cross," LPA Group spokesman Jerry Dabkowski told the commission last week.
If the crosswalk at 120th Avenue is approved by the state Department of Transportation, it will cost $23,000 to build — an amount city manager Reid Silverboard said is already budgeted.
Construction on the five permitted crosswalks is expected to begin immediately and be completed by the end of the year. The traffic signal at 104th Avenue is expected to be completed by the end of January.
The proposed pedestrian crosswalk at 120th Avenue must be approved and permitted by the DOT before construction can start.
Murphy said his department is also developing plans to expand the bike trail from the Treasure Island Causeway to the newly signaled 104th Avenue crossing to allow bicyclists to access the south end of the city's planned Beach Trail.
Pedestrian signal lights are also planned at the St. James intersection where 104th, 107th and 108th avenues converge.