By Rich Pollack
Efforts by at least one Highland Beach resident and town leaders to improve pedestrian safety at crosswalks on State Road A1A appear to be paying off.
Last month, consultants hired by the Florida Department of Transportation conducted a road-safety audit along the main thoroughfare in town to determine if there is a need for additional steps to ensure pedestrian and bicyclist safety.
The consultants paid specific attention to crosswalks throughout the town where residents have argued for enhanced signage.
Resident John Boden, who has been pushing for enhanced crosswalk safety measures after nearly running into a barely visible family while they were crossing A1A at night, said he is pleased with the progress of the study.
“I don’t think we can be in any better shape than we are,” he said.
Last month, Boden and Highland Beach Public Works Director Ed Soper accompanied representatives from the Tampa-based consulting firm of Tindale Oliver as they conducted portions of the road-safety audit.
Boden said he and the consulting firm’s representatives were at several of the town’s nine crosswalks at varying times of the day, including morning, afternoon and night.
Once the consultants have completed their report, they will submit their recommendation to the FDOT, which will make a decision on what improvements, if any, are to made, said Thomas Miller, FDOT’s area Bike/Pedestrian Safety Program specialist for the region that includes Palm Beach County.
Depending on what they see as the need at a certain crosswalk, improvements could range from enlarging existing signage to adding lighting that would alert motorists when a pedestrian is in the crosswalk.
For his part, Boden has been strongly advocating solar-powered rectangular signs with amber lights that would activate when pedestrians enter the crosswalk. He said a national study where the lights were in use showed an 80 percent compliance rate of motorists stopping when pedestrians were in crosswalks.
The FDOT’s Miller said Boden has been a driving force, along with town officials, in helping to get the safety audit done.
“The audit is being conducted based on safety concerns expressed by residents,” Miller said.
Boden first contacted the FDOT in May and also attended a department-hosted public hearing in November in which he spoke on the issue.
The department chose to wait until part-time residents returned to Highland Beach before doing the audit in order to get more accurate results, according to Miller.
He said that depending on the results of the audit, residents could see enhancements within two or three months.