If you've driven on Gulf Boulevard in Treasure Island lately, chances are you've encountered the recently installed islands in the westbound turn lanes at 123rd and 126th avenues. The Doc's mailbox is overflowing with reader reactions to the new pedestrian refuges ranging from concern and frustration to outrage.
The issue is that their placement makes for some tight maneuvering to navigate around them, motorists say they're near impossible to miss hitting, and northbound traffic cannot make clean left turns around them.
"You either have to pass the avenue and then make a U-turn back into it or leave the rear of your vehicle extended into the inside lane, blocking traffic in that lane until it's clear to make your turn," reader Leo Harbaugh said.
"If these crosswalks are not moved south from their current location we will be having accidents at both of these intersections," wrote Roland Kissinger of Treasure Island.
City officials say that because they wanted to install crosswalks on what is the Florida Department of Transportation's right of way, they were required to comply with the state's design standards. This meant that the location of the crosswalks and the addition of the pedestrian refuges islands were prescribed as part of the permit requirement.
Jim Murphy, Treasure Island's director of public works, said that the city tried unsuccessfully to get the DOT to slacken the requirement to install the pedestrian refuges and held several public meetings to inform residents, but in the end it came down to going along with a design they weren't thrilled with in order to enhance pedestrian safety.
"The simple fact is that the city was either going to install crosswalks that met the FDOT's design requirements or to install none at all," Murphy said.
Kris Carson of the DOT told us that because Treasure Island was awarded federal grant money for the project, they were required to comply with design standards established by the Federal Highway Administration. These standards call for raised islands any time midblock pedestrian crossings are installed on multilane highways.
Carson also said that the contractor who did the island installation did so without restriping the lanes to guide traffic around them, which created a lot of angst for motorists.
"We advised the city they had to follow this requirement if they wanted to use the permit approach to install midblock crossings. The issue was with the maintenance of traffic by the contractor the city hired. The contractor installed the islands without making necessary striping changes. This has since been corrected," Carson said in an email last week.
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