More than 3,000 residents live adjacent to the street crossings of busy 54th Avenue N between 75th and 81st Lane, almost all of them seniors. Many people cross 54th Avenue N in certain places and have been doing so for years to get to their banks, shopping, bus stops, church, etc. Outdated dull signs and speeding cars have led to some pedestrians being killed along this stretch of road.
Recently, some roadway engineers decided to modernize this area with new signs and flashing lights that will stop traffic so people can cross safely. They also decided to relocate both crosswalks. The crosswalk on the west was moved far enough away that it causes issues for those who use wheelchairs and walkers. The old crossing gave direct access to a bank driveway. I'm sure much time and money went into creating all this, yet they never consulted those of us who use these crossings. Don't you think it may have been smart to hold some meetings to inform us residents not to cross the street in our traditional, convenient places?
The crosswalk at 54th Avenue N and 81st Street, which was initially installed in 1995 and upgraded with flashing beacons a year later, has long been on the county's list of those to be upgraded.
In January a pedestrian crossing within the crosswalk was killed by a motorist who went around a vehicle that was stopped for the pedestrian. In the aftermath, county engineers conducted a study to determine what safety features could be added.
Here's what has happened since: 54th Avenue N was already scheduled to be resurfaced in July of this year as was work to improve ramps and sidewalks, making it a good time for the county to make the improvements to the crosswalks before new asphalt and pavement markings were installed.
Debra Jaramillo, the county's traffic engineering supervisor, said that as the work got under way, the county received about 124 letters from the residents of nearby Paradise Shores in support of the improvements.
Jaramillo said the crosswalk at 79th Street was not relocated; workers used the crosswalk markings on the north side of road for the new crosswalk. The crosswalk at 81st Street was relocated to the west to make it a midblock crosswalk, which reduced the number of conflict points from seven at the intersection to five. The crosswalk was moved closer to the bus stop, eliminating the need for a bus rider to cross one of the bank's driveways to get to the stop.
"Based on discussions with the bank we also reconstructed the east driveway to bring it into compliance with ADA standards, and to remove the change in slope between the existing sidewalk and the driveway," Jaramillo said.
The ramps and medians at both crossings were constructed to provide a larger refuge for pedestrians and persons in wheelchairs. Flashing beacons were installed in the median and on the shoulder at each crosswalk for eastbound and westbound traffic. The beacons are pedestrian-activated at the curb, like a regular pedestrian-activated crosswalk at an intersection. Jaramillo said the layout of the crosswalk was changed to provide a raised center island and an angled crossing through the median; the angled crossing forces pedestrians to see oncoming vehicles.
• Be prepared for street closures in downtown St. Petersburg today due to the Susan G. Komen 3-Day walk. Organizers expect up to 2,500 walkers to wrap up the walk at Straub Park and Spa Beach. Activities will affect Bayshore Drive from Central Avenue to Second Avenue NE. Bayshore Drive should reopen by about 6:30 p.m. Parking restrictions will be in effect around South Straub Park through this evening.
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