By Mary Hladky

Beachside residents, who have urged city officials to make safety improvements to the section of East Palmetto Park Road between the Intracoastal Waterway and State Road A1A, have received unwelcome news.
A city study concluded that no crosswalks are warranted along that span and installing them would create safety hazards.
“Obviously, we are very disappointed,” Katie Barr MacDougall, president of the Riviera Civic Association, said after city staffers outlined their recommendations on Oct. 11. “We feel the study was flawed.”
Residents of the Riviera, Por La Mar and Sun & Surf neighborhoods aren’t taking no for an answer.
“This is not over,” MacDougall said. “We are going to ask for a new study. We may ask for an independent study.”
If there’s any consolation, it’s that City Council members didn’t like what they heard either.
“I am not happy with the study and the final decisions made,” said Deputy Mayor Andrea O’Rourke.
“We are all frustrated about the results of this analysis,” said council member Monica Mayotte. “It does not provide us with an opportunity to improve the pedestrian realm in the east side of town.”
Yet council members did not want to overrule city staff since resident safety is at issue.
City Manager Leif Ahnell acknowledged their dissatisfaction.
“Everyone sees a problem…,” he said. “We have not figured out a solution that will be safe for everybody.”
East Palmetto Park Road is a main gateway to the beaches and the downtown, but many nearby residents say it has an unsightly appearance that belies that status.
MacDougall has pressed for changes that would improve its look and walkability and add bicycle lanes. Her main request is to install crosswalks at Olive Way and Wavecrest Way so that people have a safe way to cross the road.
City staffers studied vehicle and pedestrian traffic for 40 hours in January. They determined that a crosswalk was warranted during only one of those hours.
In the last five years, no pedestrians or bicyclists were injured crossing the road and there was only one vehicle and bicyclist collision.
Even so, council member Andy Thomson described crossing the road as “harrowing.”
“To my mind it is a significant safety concern,” he said.
City Traffic Engineer Naresh Machavarapu said adding crosswalks would not change the behavior of pedestrians who now cross the road whenever and wherever they want.
Crosswalks with yellow flashing lights activated when pedestrians push a button would give a false sense of safety, he said.
In one example, Machavarapu said drivers would stop on the crosswalks when they are lined up waiting for the Intracoastal drawbridge to lower. Pedestrians could begin crossing the street thinking they were safe just as cars began to move forward.
In addition, eastbound traffic that had stopped until the drawbridge lowered might have to stop again immediately after crossing the Intracoastal if pedestrians wanted to cross the road.
The short section of the road between the Intracoastal and A1A is owned by the county, but the city can control traffic along it. The two governments must agree to changes.
Ahnell said city staff will continue talking to county officials about the situation and will keep evaluating it.

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