ST. PETE BEACH — More than $1 million in planned pedestrian safety and landscaping improvements are expected to reduce the danger for St. Pete Beach residents and tourists crossing Gulf Boulevard.
The pedestrian safety improvement project, scheduled to begin next summer, is the result of years of study of continuing pedestrian accidents and fatalities along Gulf Boulevard, according to the city's public services director, Steve Hallock.
In 2005, beach communities successfully pressured the Florida Department of Transportation to lower speed limits along Gulf Boulevard from 40 mph to the current 35 mph.
A number of new pedestrian crosswalks were installed with signs warning vehicles to stop when people were crossing the road.
A 2008 DOT study of the entire length of Gulf Boulevard from Sand Key to St. Pete Beach found an average of 14 pedestrian-involved crashes a year, resulting in more than two fatalities.
Despite the reduced speed limits and additional crosswalks, pedestrian accidents continued to occur, with one of the most recent involving a fatality in Treasure Island in April.
In St. Pete Beach, Gulf Boulevard's four lanes of virtually uninterrupted traffic are particularly difficult for pedestrians to cross, Hallock said.
"FDOT felt it was a high priority to improve safety here. They have designated about a million dollars in federal safety funds for St. Pete Beach," he said.
Designs for new crosswalks, raised medians and pedestrian refuge islands will be on display from 5 to 7 p.m. July 29 at the Community Center, 7701 Boca Ciega Drive.
Pedestrian refuge islands with crosswalks are planned at the Pinellas Bayway, south of 44th Avenue and north of Gulf Winds Drive. Seven raised medians will be built between 64th and 73rd avenues.
Hallock said he hopes residents will attend the design open house to review the plans and submit their comments to the DOT.
The city also recently learned that it has received several grants for landscaping: $150,000 for landscaping the Gulf Boulevard pedestrian medians, $100,000 for improvements along the Pinellas Bayway, and $300,000 ($60,000 each year for the next five years) for landscaping rehabilitation along Gulf Boulevard and Blind Pass Road.
The $150,000 will be used to landscape the new Gulf Boulevard traffic islands when the pedestrian safety improvements are complete next summer, Hallock said.
The $100,000 Bayway grant will be used to install new plants where the Bayway enters the city. That is also to be completed next summer.
Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.