BRADENTON BEACH – At the request of Sandpiper Resort Co-Op residents, city commissioners are committing up to $50,000 to install a lighted crosswalk at the intersection of Gulf Drive and 27th Street North.
Manatee County will reimburse the city for half the crosswalk costs as part of a 2018 interlocal funding agreement that provides each Island city with up to $333,000 in matching surplus beach concession funds for public projects.
The commission is also pursuing additional crossing, safety and lighting improvements along Gulf Drive near Katie Pierola Sunset Park and the Gulf Drive Cafe.
On Thursday, April 4, the commission unanimously authorized a contract with MSB Services not to exceed $50,000 for the installation of the 27th Street/Gulf Drive crosswalk. The contract includes the original $31,490 MSB Services estimated to install the rapid flashing beacon crossing.
At the suggestion of Vice Mayor Jake Spooner, the contract also provides up to $18,510 in additional funds for the possible inclusion of an audio signaling component that would provide the blind and visually impaired with audio confirmation that the push-button crossing lights have been activated.
The commission previously discussed a lighted crosswalk at the 26th Street North/Gulf Drive intersection but agreed to move it down one block where an unlighted crosswalk already exists with trolley stops on both sides of Gulf Drive.
“It makes a lot more sense to have it at 27th Street because of the trolley stops,” Spooner said. “It’s a really busy area. There’s also someone living in the park that has a disability.”
Spooner submitted the crosswalk request after Sandpiper resident Doug LeFevre made him aware of the mobile home community’s safety concerns.
Spooner said City Engineer Lynn Burnett recently told him it could take up to seven years for the Florida Department of Transportation to install the requested crossing on the state-owned road. Spooner said the new lighted crosswalk will resemble the crosswalk previously installed near the Runaway Bay condominiums.
Spooner asked Deputy Clerk Ruth Stief to read aloud a letter from the Sandpiper residents that was signed by Co-op President Ivan Harper.
“We are a senior community located on the east side of Gulf Drive. We have 166 units within the Sandpiper. We have had numerous incidents reported from our residents about close calls or waiting long periods of time to cross the street to either access the beach or catch the trolley going southbound. We have a number of residents over the age of 70 as well as a visually-impaired resident. We are asking for the city to provide a flashing light at the crosswalk to ensure the safety of our residents,” the letter said.
Addressing the commission, Sandpiper resident Bob Gumson said, “I’m probably the visually-impaired person that was referred to. I’m totally blind. It’s a serious concern crossing that street. I’d like to be able to cross the street and take the trolley to the beach. The only way that’s going to happen is to get some kind of signaling light that stops traffic.”
Gumson referenced the White Cane Law that requires vehicles to come to a full stop when a pedestrian is attempting to cross the street using a white cane or with the assistance of a guide dog.
“I have stood there with my cane out and cars don’t stop. They just whiz by. You’re supposed to stop for a white cane,” Gumson said.
“Mr. Gumson is probably the most active blind person I have ever been around. We love him dearly, but we have a lot of other folks who are not technically disabled but have difficulty navigating the street,” Harper added.
After the meeting, Spooner said, “It’s always a pleasure when we can help resolve public concerns in our community, especially when it comes to safety. It was a refreshing reminder of the bright side of being a public servant.”