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Longboat Key leaders asking FDOT to re-examine crosswalk positioning

LONGBOAT KEY, FL (WWSB) - Whether it's the beach, or a store, Longboat Key walkers have dozens of reasons to cross the 45 mph traffic on Gulf of Mexico Drive.

"People seem to stop whenever they see you," says Paul Vickery, who's been visiting Longboat for over 40 years. "Even when you're not in the designated crosswalk area."

Vickery and his wife stay near one of Longboat's six crosswalks across the main roadway that can stop traffic with the click of a button.

However, Paul admits he'll sometimes skip the extra steps to the walkway if he can take a shorter walk to his destination.

"I have arthritis and I have two knee replacements," he says.

The crosswalks were added two years ago by the Florida Department of Transportation after an analysis of pedestrian crossing data, but town leaders are asking FDOT to re-evaluate those spots. That request went in months before an 85-year-old pedestrian was struck and killed in the early morning hours.

"As time goes on, and people's travel patterns change, development changes, there's a need to kind of re-look at them," says FDOT District 1 spokesperson Zachary Burch. "And see do we need to add more, and if so, where?"

Burch says a lot of data is considered. Staff and cameras can be used to observe foot traffic patterns, but some areas could be excluded if they have a turn lane, or if they are near a big curve in the road with blind spots.

"We don't want to find a place that's just a safe place, but never gets used because it's so far out of the way," says Burch.

"It's a balancing act to make sure that it's safe, and it's accessible, and it's usable for pedestrians and cyclists."

Also, just because a crosswalk is there, doesn't mean it will always be used.

"I'm fine the way it is. I pay attention, and it's fine," says Christine Hanson, who has been visiting the island for 20 years.

FDOT says there's no reasonable expectation for when their analysis will be complete, but if any changes are approved, they shouldn't take long to implement.

The state-agency says they're open to observing speed-limit changes to improve pedestrian safety, but Burch does not believe that was part of the town's initial request.

Six crosswalks with signals were installed in 2016 to help pedestrians cross the road where state transportation data shows traffic can range from 9,000-17,000 cars per day.

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