Unclog the artery: Safety changes planned for Eau Gallie Blvd.

Divided medians, new bike lanes and other improvements are slated for Eau Gallie Boulevard between the causeway and State Road A1A as part of the Florida Department of Transportation’s plan to make the busy artery safe for all kinds of traffic.

This key beachside roadway, currently five lanes with a center turning lane, is considered arterial in that it serves as a primary east-west evacuation route as well as serving local traffic and beach visitors.

The project concept is making headway, but traffic engineers and planners will soon need citizen input to come up with the best final design.

An FDOT Conceptual Planning Study on the corridor, completed last year, sought to come up with alternative configurations such as medians to achieve a “long term vision” addressing the safety and mobility needs of vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians.

Next up will be a Concept Development Study; the alternatives will be compared to come up with a final design for implementation.

FDOT project team members recently held a status meeting on the project, including the results from all previous studies and observations from on-scene visits, said Steve Olson, communications manager for FDOT District Five covering East Central Florida.

While the typical section of the roadway “can accommodate the existing and projected traffic volumes,” the studies so far identified two problem areas where medians could be introduced to improve traffic operations; one on each end of the project, he said.

Other elements now under study include enhanced bicycle and pedestrian facilities to more safely interface with the design of the many business entrances along the roadway.

As part of the process, project engineers have recently collected traffic counts and crash data, and are compiling the information. Maps from the earlier study showed crash-prone areas to be at the intersection of Eau Gallie Boulevard and South Patrick Drive to the north and North Riverside Drive to the south, and at its intersection with State Road A1A, the same areas considered for the new medians and other configuration changes.

Olson downplayed the difficulty of the project compared to others handled by the DOT but noted one important difference from most roadway projects: that portion of road includes small sections of three jurisdictions.

“All projects have their own unique characteristics, including SR 518. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) will work with representatives of the cities of Melbourne and Indian Harbour Beach, Brevard County, area residents and the local business community to reach a consensus regarding operational improvements, which can then move immediately into final design,’’ Olson said.

DOT Project Manager Judy Pizzo said she and other officials toured the busy roadway and witnessed safety concerns, especially for pedestrians trying to cross the five-lane road by staging halfway in the turning lane.

Another apparent safety issue, documented by photograph in the initial study, is caused by the lack of a bicycle lane in some sections and at business entrances, requiring cyclists to briefly enter the main roadway to negotiate around parked cars.

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