FDOT to add 'pedestrian islands' in Sarasota

Sarasota, Florida -- We see it too often maybe. We've done it ourselves. Crossed a busy road dodging traffic instead of walking to the crosswalk and waiting for the light. It may be why Florida leads the nation in pedestrian accidents.

FDOT is trying to make the road safer by adding pedestrian refuge islands along busy roads. One such project is planned for a 3.6-mile stretch of Sarasota along Bee Ridge Road from US 41 to Dunn Road.

FDOT held a public hearing Thursday evening at Trinity Methodist Church to get feedback from residents and business owners.

Donna Tortorice knows the problem along Bee Ridge all too well. If location is important, Donna picked a good one two years ago for her homemade Popsicle shop.

Pop Craft Pops is on Bee Ridge Road, one of Sarasota County's busiest roads, which sounds great except, "It's a nightmare getting across the street, but they try, they do," Donna says.

Bee Ridge is a six-lane road with a 45 mph speed limit that's shared by nearly 36,000 cars a day along with pedestrians and cyclists.

"I hold my breath!" says Donna each time sees someone try to cross. Donna has a window to the close calls between both each day.

"They'll stop In the middle while the traffic comes on both sides looking for a clear way through. They're sort of a standing target."

10 News' camera caught a man crossing to a convenience store across from his apartment and back as traffic came from both directions at full speed, yet there's a crosswalk just 50 feet away. He refused to talk to us, but his neighbor did.

"You cross this lane?" we asked.

"Yes I do," says Peter Taliercio.

"Why risk your life crossing through here?"

"It's a time-consuming thing. [I] want to get back into the house," he explains.

FDOT officials say risky behavior has led to 59 injuries and two fatalities of pedestrians and cyclists between 2008 and 2012.

"Bee Ridge Road is not dangerous. Drivers and our behavior cause these problems," says Robin Stublen, communications specialist for FDOT District 1.

FDOT's solution: Adding 12 pedestrian refuge islands along Bee Ridge Road. Each island is about 60 feet long and 5-10 feet wide to give people a chance to take a break and reassess traffic before continuing to cross the busy street. The pedestrian refuge island is the first in the county.

Click: FDOT's map of Bee Ridge Road islands

FDOT hopes to begin construction during the summer 2015. Stublen says the $708,000 project also includes drainage work, repaving the sidewalks, new signage and adjusting the traffic lights.

FDOT has a similar project planned for Bradenton along US 41 from 69th Avenue to Cortez Road. There's also a pedestrian refuge island project planned for Lakeland from State 37 to Belmar Street.


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