Gainesville and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) continue to make improvements to the West University Avenue area with a series of projects designed to make the area safer.
Mid-block pedestrian crosswalks are the next big fall project on the list for the FDOT. The two crosswalks—one across from UF’s Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and the other just west of 14th Street—are intended to help create shorter blocks, FDOT officials said earlier this year.
According to the Federal Highway Safety Administration, studies of pedestrians show they like to take the most direct route to their destination even if that means crossing in the middle of a busy road.
The mid-block crosswalks offer safer options, and they will act to further slow traffic in the pedestrian-heavy University of Florida area, FDOT officials said.
Mid-block pedestrian crosswalks have a variety of signal types, but Troy Roberts, spokesperson for the FDOT District 2, said that the West University crossings will have signals that “will function like a typical traffic signal with green, yellow, and red lights.”
"When a pedestrian wants to cross, traffic will be given a red light to stop to allow for the pedestrian to cross safely,” Roberts said in an email to Mainstreet Daily News.
Additionally, the FDOT is planning to install new traffic signals on West University at Northwest 16th Street and Northwest 19th Street, Roberts said. The bids for that project are expected to go out in November with installation expected to start in February.
Work to improve safety on West University has accelerated since two University of Florida students were killed in separate pedestrian-related accidents in December and January.
Since then, the city and FDOT have lowered the speed limit to 25 mph, added temporary speed tables, replaced brick paver crosswalks with more visible crosswalks, and altered traffic signal timing to slow motorists.
The city also has converted sections of 14th and 15th streets at West University from two-way roadways to a one-way pair, which is designed to reduce potential crashes.
“More than 850 pedestrians cross University Avenue at Northwest 15th Street during the midday peak hour,” City Planner Scott Wright said in a news release. “By limiting the direction of traffic flow, there are fewer places where pedestrians and motorists can cross paths. That’s safer for everyone.”
The conversion of the 14th and 15th streets to a one-way pair cost the city approximately $27,000 in material, equipment and labor costs, according to a response to a public records request from Mainstreet Daily News.
A similar conversion of 17th and 18th streets to a one-way pair is in the design phase, Gainesville Public Information Officer Rossana Passaniti said via email. Work on that set of roads is tentatively scheduled for the end of the year.
Gainesville and UF also hired HDR Engineering in the spring to conduct a traffic study on West University and 13th Street to examine whether complete streets-style changes could improve safety in the area.
Complete street design, which takes pedestrians, cyclists and public transit riders into account along with motorists, can reduce both car accidents and pedestrian risk, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The City Commission was set to hear the HDR report at their regular meeting on Sept. 16, but that meeting was canceled over safety concerns. The commission is expected to hear the HDR presentation at a meeting on Oct. 21.
Editor's note: This story has been updated.