TREASURE ISLAND — New traffic signals are needed at two Gulf Boulevard intersections the city considers dangerous for vehicular traffic and pedestrians trying to cross the busy road.
That is what a unanimous commission has decided to tell the state Department of Transportation in its request that the agency approve and pay the $600,000 needed to install the signals at both the 104th and 108th Avenue intersections on Gulf Boulevard.
The city says the 104th Avenue intersection is the most critical of the two.
That is where many cars try to enter or exit Gulf Boulevard to access the Publix supermarket, which opened in September 2008. Finding a break in the busy traffic can often mean a long wait.
Perhaps of even more concern are the many pedestrians and beach park visitors who cross at that intersection.
The traffic warrant study showed there were 2,536 pedestrian crossings between the public beach park and Publix on just one Saturday in March.
The study also found that the intersection at 104th met three of eight possible criteria or "warrants" required to justify installation of a traffic signal. Typically, according to Public Works Director Jim Murphy, only one "warrant" is needed for a traffic signal.
Despite the yellow warning signs and striped pedestrian crossing, cars frequently ignore pedestrians and bicyclists trying to cross Gulf Boulevard. On two occasions observed earlier this summer, there were almost accidents as cars failed to stop or screeched their brakes at the last minute to avoid hitting pedestrians.
City officials said the state law that requires all traffic to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk is infrequently observed.
"People are not stopping there. A man called to tell me how got off his bike to help an elderly couple cross the street. It is really dangerous at 104th," said Commissioner Carol Coward.
During an earlier discussion, Commissioner Phil Collins said he knows people who are "intimidated" by the 104th Avenue intersection.
"We believe we have a very strong case for a traffic signal at 104th," City Manager Reid Silverboard told the commission.
The intersection at 108th Avenue and Gulf Boulevard also generates much traffic, according to Murphy. A McDonald's restaurant and a Rally fuel station flank the east side of the intersection. Many cars also turn here to access the city's municipal center. The intersection met two warrant criteria, according to the study.
The $12,000 cost of the traffic warrant study was covered by the Transportation Trust Fund.
However, the cost to install just one traffic signal is estimated between $250,000 and $300,000.
Money for the actual installation of the 104th Avenue traffic signal is included in the city's current capital improvements budget.
If DOT approves the signal at 108th Avenue but does not have the funding, city officials are proposing the $300,000 cost be paid for from local options sales tax revenues in the 2010-2011 fiscal year.
The city, of course, hopes the DOT would eventually reimburse the city for the cost of installing the lights. Currently, the DOT does not have enough money in its budget to cover the cost, according to Jim Murphy.
Ironically, during construction, the Publix developer offered to pay for part of the cost of the traffic light at 104th, up to $250,000. Silverboard said he did not know if Publix corporate headquarters would still honor that offer.
"It is staff's opinion Publix is responsible to some degree for the increase in vehicular capacity at this location," said Murphy. "They also share in some of the responsibility for the significant amount of pedestrian traffic at this location."