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Crosswalks upgraded
More visible flashing beacons coming
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Rectangular rapid flashing beacons like this one at Gulf Boulevard and Maritana Drive will be installed by the Florida Department of Transporation soon in St. Pete Beach.
ST. PETE BEACH – Life will become a little easier for pedestrians who want to cross Gulf Boulevard and Blind Pass Road in St. Pete Beach.

The state Department of Transportation plans to install flashing beacons at several intersections along the two highways in conjunction with a project encompassing the entire length of the corridor, which is also known as State Road 699, in the next year.

Both FDOT and city officials say the rectangular rapid flashing beacons are effective in providing pedestrian safety.

Essentially, the beacons are pedestrian-activated amber horizontal LED lights. They use an irregular flash pattern similar to emergency flashers on police cars.

Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kris Carson said the beacons will be installed on S.R. 699 at five locations: 1,000 feet north of 37th Avenue; 250 feet north of 52nd Avenue; 350 feet north of Gulf Winds Drive; 77th Avenue; and 140 feet north of 82nd Avenue. In addition, a new crosswalk will be installed at 52nd Avenue.

The cost is about $9,000 per set of the beacons. Each location will have three sets, at a cost of $30,000 per location for the beacons only.

City officials said they have spent years trying to get FDOT to approve the beacons to enhance pedestrian safety along S.R. 699. They said in the memo the lights have been installed at the Don CeSar crosswalk and are “highly effective.”

City officials approved a memo on Sept. 12 authorizing the city to install the beacons at unsignalized intersections and mid-block pedestrian crossings along the corridor with DOT reimbursement.

Since that time, the FDOT has secured funding and decided to oversee the larger project to install the lights along the entire highway. City commissioners authorized City Manager Mike Bonfield to enter into an agreement with the FDOT to allow the agency to install the crosswalk signage and flashing beacons in the city limits.

The state is partnering with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to finance the project. David Skrelunas, district safety programs manager for the FDOT, has said that the agency has tried to set aside $1 million for the project along the entire corridor

In 2005 St. Petersburg became the first jurisdiction to experiment with the flashing beacons under federal permission.

As of about three months ago, the beacons have been installed at 42 intersections in St. Petersburg, resulting in an 85 percent compliance rate from motorists at intersections.

However, state officials caution that they don’t want to put the beacons at every intersection because that would dilute the effect they have upon motorists.
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