FDOT to complete some West University changes this week

The Florida Department of Transportation is expected to finish upgrading eight crosswalks on West University Avenue in the next week or so, making them safer for pedestrians.

FDOT is in the end stage of a $66,000 project that converts what was brick paver crosswalks into special emphasis crosswalks, said Troy Roberts, spokesperson for FDOT District 2. The special emphasis crosswalks have additional reflective striping and should help make pedestrians more visible to motorists.

The upgraded crosswalks are part of a series of short-term changes FDOT is making to a stretch of West University near the UF campus. University Avenue is part of State Road 26 so FDOT, not the city, is in charge of changes to the road.

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The state has already retimed traffic signals on that stretch of road so cars cannot travel through multiple lights without being stopped.

“You may hit the next [green light], but you’re not going to hit two,” Roberts said in a phone interview with Mainstreet Daily News.

The next scheduled project on West University is the addition of four temporary speed tables, near Gale Lemerand Drive, Northwest 19th Street, Northwest 16th Street and Northwest 14th Street.

Compared to speed humps, speed tables are shorter, about 3 inches in height, and longer, usually 22 feet, according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials.

“The speed tables are being put out to make you slow down,” Roberts said. “That’s one of those things we’re putting out there to get motorists used to going slower.”

The speed tables will be custom-built to fit the roadway, so the process takes time. The supplier must first manufacture them to fit the intersections, Gainesville City Manager Lee Feldman said in a phone interview.

FDOT is in the process of coordinating with a manufacturer and finalizing a price, and the agency hopes they will be manufactured and installed this summer, Roberts said.

FDOT is also looking at lowering the speed limit on University, Jim Hannigan, the District 2 traffic engineer, told the joint Gainesville-Alachua County Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization (MTPO) last month.

But the state transportation department will not make that decision until after the speed tables are installed, Hannigan said.

In order to slow motorists in the pedestrian-heavy section of University, FDOT is trying to create shorter blocks, Hannigan told the MTPO. To this end, FDOT is planning to add two midblock pedestrian crosswalks—one across from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and one just west of 14th Street.

Construction of the midblock pedestrian crosswalks is schedule for fall, Roberts said.

Other changes to the road—including a complete streets-style redesign—are longer term. The city and university are expecting a report back from HDR Engineering in about five months that will lay out redesign possibilities and costs.

Complete streets-style design takes into account other users of roads besides motorists and can include a variety of elements such as roundabouts, narrower or reduced lanes, medians and additional curbing. The city’s restructuring of South Main Street, completed in 2019, is an example of a complete streets redesign.

If FDOT is unable, or unwilling, to consider additional alterations to University Avenue, the city may formally request a transfer of jurisdictional control of West University, city officials have said.

Hannigan told the MTPO that FDOT is willing to look at transferring a segment of University Avenue, from 34th Street to 13th Street, to Gainesville. However, jurisdictional transfers have historically taken 12 to 18 months to complete, Roberts said.

While FDOT is making improvements to road safety, the Gainesville Police Department (GPD) is continuing its Gator Special Traffic Enforcement Program, which has increased enforcement on West University and on other roads ringing the campus. The UF Police Department and the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office are helping with the increased enforcement efforts.

Both GPD and ASO have signed contracts FDOT to conduct high-visibility enforcement operations related to pedestrian and bicyclist safety.

GPD, which received $35,000, announced it will increase tickets and warnings on University Avenue, 34th Street, and Archer Road as well as Newberry Road, Northeast 39th Avenue, Northeast Waldo Road and Southwest 62nd Boulevard.

According to the ASO Twitter account, the sheriff’s department received $17,669 for high-visibility enforcement.

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