TREASURE ISLAND — It soon will be easier and safer for residents and tourists to cross Gulf Boulevard on their way to the beach.
The city is designing five pedestrian crossings that include median refuges as well as flashing lights to warn oncoming traffic that people are in the intersection.
Once the crosswalk plans are approved by the state Department of Transportation, Public Works Director Jim Murphy said the city will immediately put the project out to bid.
"I hope we can have the new pedestrian crosswalks installed by the end of the summer," Murphy said.
The upgraded pedestrian crossings will be located near where 99th, 103rd, 119th, 123rd and 126th avenues intersect Gulf Boulevard.
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 crosswalk lighting will initially be the alternating flashing lights currently in use on Gulf Boulevard, but will be eventually swapped out by DOT for brighter strobe lights.
Meanwhile, 32 newly designed signs will be installed at each of the city's beach access points and at the entrance to city-owned beach parks beginning next week.
The cost of most of the signs and four of the five upgraded 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.
More than 300,000 gallons of heavy oil and 33,000 gallons of jet fuel spilled into the bay after the collision of a freighter and two barges in the mouth of Tampa Bay. Oil eventually spread onto about 13 miles of Pinellas County beaches.
Direct cleanup costs totaled about $34 million.
In addition, NOAA administered an $8 million court settlement awarded to the county and affected municipalities.
Most of the money was allocated for revitalizing shorelines and natural resources affected by the oil spill.
Beach cities affected by the 1993 oil spill were awarded $2.5 million to be used primarily to improve public beach access.
Among the projects approved were a nature preserve boardwalk in Indian Rocks Beach, dune crossovers in several cities, the Causeway Shoreline Restoration Park in Madeira Beach, a boardwalk and pier at St. Petersburg's Park Street Boat Ramp.
St. Pete Beach used its $652,500 grant on several projects, including a fishing pier at Blind Pass, a boardwalk at Upham Beach, and a pier, boardwalk and boat ramp in Pass-a-Grille.
Treasure Island has spent $225,000 of its NOAA grant at Sunset Vista Trailhead Park, which was purchased and developed through more than $1.5 million in earlier state and federal grants.
It took the city nearly another decade to decide how to spend the remaining $380,000 from the oil spill grant.
Originally, it planned to use the remaining $380,000 to extend the city's central beach trail both south to Sunset Vista Park and north to John's Pass.
That plan was abandoned when the price tag came in at nearly $2 million and property owners on the northern section objected to the project taking part of their beach.
In addition to the crosswalk beach access and park signs now planned, the city has used its remaining NOAA money for other beach-related projects including installation of turtle-friendly solar LED lighting, bicycle racks, trash cans and educational signs describing beach plants, animals and birds.