By Rich Pollack

    After months of lobbying by town officials and at least one persistent resident, Highland Beach’s efforts to improve pedestrian safety at crosswalks have prompted a Florida Department of Transportation decision to implement enhanced signals at one location along State Road A1A on a trial basis.
    After studying several potential options for improvements to mid-block crosswalks, FDOT officials agreed to install pedestrian crossing signs surrounded by yellow LED lights at a crosswalk near the southern end of town, in front of the Boca Highland Beach Club and Marina. The installation is expected to be done by the end of October.
    The new signs, which will be pedestrian-activated, will replace existing single flashing yellow lights and are expected to bring more attention to the presence of pedestrians in the crosswalk, said Thomas Miller, FDOT’s bike/pedestrian safety program specialist for the district that includes Palm Beach County.
    The improved signals will be done on a test basis, with an FDOT study measuring their effectiveness.
    “If the pilot location treatment is successful in changing driver behavior, FDOT will continue to investigate other locations where the enhanced treatment may be appropriate,” Miller said. “However, if the treatment is deemed not to be successful, FDOT will return the crossing at Boca Highland Beach Club to the current condition.”
    To determine success of the new signals, FDOT will measure pedestrian and motorist compliance prior to the installation of the lights and then again after they are in place.
    For Highland Beach resident John Boden, who has been pushing for improvements at crosswalks, the FDOT action is a step in the right direction.
    “I’m glad we’re still making progress toward improved pedestrian safety in Highland Beach,” he said.
    Boden, who spent months researching a variety of crosswalk safety options, said he believes the LED lights FDOT is installing will be very effective in alerting motorists that pedestrians want to cross.
    “The yellow flashing lights really jump off the sign and get your attention,” he said. “That’s why they’re so effective.”
    In addition to the improvements at the test site, FDOT plans to update pedestrian-crossing signage at other midblock crossings in town. Plans to restripe several crosswalks to make them more visible to motorists are also in the works.
    Miller said the expected completion date for the signage and striping is spring of next year.
FDOT began to consider the crosswalk issue earlier this year when it hired a consultant to do a road safety audit to determine if current signage was sufficient or needed improvement.
    “The road safety audit revealed a low level of pedestrian activity at the crossings during nighttime conditions, but did acknowledge perceived dark conditions throughout at night,” Miller said.

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