Friday, May 11, 2012

BikeWalkLee letter to BoCC on Del Prado pedestrian safety options

 On Tuesday, May 15th, the Board of County Commissioners considers two options for making safety improvements at the Del Prado Blvd. intersection by the Cape Coral Burton Park, where 13-year old Ryan Santos was killed while crossing the street on his bike two years ago.  BikeWalkLee sent a letter today to the commissioners on its views on the two options.  Below is an excerpt from the letter.

May 11, 2012

Dear Commissioners:

BikeWalkLee, a coalition to complete the streets in Lee County, advocates for improving safety for bicyclists and pedestrians.  Since the tragic death of 13-year old Ryan Santos on April 27, 2010, BikeWalkLee has been urging LeeDOT and  the Board of County Commissioners to take action to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety at Del Prado Blvd. and NE 3rd Terrace, near Burton Park in Cape Coral.   At your May 15th County Commission meeting you will be considering two options for how best to improve this intersection for pedestrian safety and BikeWalkLee would to share its views for your consideration.

You have two options before you--one proposed by the Cape Coral City Council (a full traffic signal) and the other by LeeDOT (pedestrian crossing signal).  We would like to commend both parties for agreeing that pedestrian crossing safety is the most important factor in developing a solution.  We would like to commend the Cape Coral City Council for its determination and hard work in search of a solution and  for its work with RaceTrac to find funding for its preferred solution. We also commend LeeDOT for coming up with a solution that is innovative and proven in other communities to make the intersection safer for pedestrians when traffic signals may not be "warranted" (a technical term meaning not enough vehicles are coming from the intersecting streets). 

First, to summarize the two options:
1.  Full traffic signal (proposed by Cape Coral):  A full traffic signal is the highest form of traffic control and federal standards (MUTCD) exist for determining when this approach is "warranted".   The safety benefits at signalized intersections for pedestrians is contingent upon the application of several additional pedestrian safety features, such as marking all legs of an intersection, pedestrian signal heads in all directions, etc.  (See Safe Routes to School Guide on Traffic Signals:  It is not clear what additional pedestrian features will accompany the installation of a full traffic signal under this option. 

Full traffic signals usually require high side street volumes, which this intersection does not have.  According to Federal MUTCD standards, a signal at this intersection is not warranted. The Cape Coral City Council is asking you to make a policy decision to approve installation of a "unwarranted" traffic signal and to accept RaceTrac's offer to pay for the installation and maintenance costs of this traffic signal.

 2.  Pedestrian crossing signal (proposed by LeeDOT):   When intersections do not meet the MUTCD  standards for installing a traffic signal, there are nationally recommended alternative approaches for addressing pedestrian safety, including a midblock pedestrian crossing signal.

Although the type of signal is not mentioned in your blue sheet, the staff has said they are considering the Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon System, known as the HAWK.  BikeWalkLee has been advocating the use of HAWK signals in Lee County since 2009, after their successful use in St. Petersburg, FL.  While experimental back in the early 2000s when St. Petersburg installed them,  they are now approved by FHWA and recommended in the 2009 MUTCD.  According to independent studies conducted by the Texas Transportation Institute, the HAWK is nearly as effective as a full traffic signal, with 97 percent motorist compliance.

An important component of pedestrian safety in this option is an intersection redesign that includes a two-step crossing with new islands in the middle of this long, straight, multi-lane stretch of road.

Considerations for the Board:
Both options have merit and the Board may wish to weigh several considerations... 

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