Shores trying once again for crosswalk on A1A


Indian River Shores hopes the third time will be the charm when the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) conducts yet another traffic volume study in early 2024 to see if a new pedestrian crosswalk might be warranted on A1A at the southern entrance to the town by the CVS drugstore.

Two previous FDOT studies over the past two years found that by the Department’s standards, there wasn’t enough traffic and there hadn’t been a required number of accidents at the spot to warrant a crosswalk.

But Indian River Shores Deputy Public Safety Director Mark Shaw said the last study was done in September, out of season when traffic is typically the lightest in the area.

There are three reasons the town is hoping for a different outcome this time. First, Shaw says FDOT has promised to do the next study in January or February, at the height of our busy winter season, when traffic volume is likely to be at its peak.

Second, there is a new secretary at the head of FDOT’s District 4, headquartered in Fort Lauderdale and stretching all the way north to Indian River County. Steven Braun recently took over from his predecessor who retired and has agreed to take a new look at the issue in answer to a letter written jointly by Shaw and Bob Auwaerter, the Indian River Shores Council member who specializes in transportation and traffic issues for the town and frequently rides his bicycle along A1A.

The third reason the town is hopeful for a different answer this time from FDOT is what Auwaerter calls a “sea change in attitude” on the part of state officials toward traffic.

Auwaerter said when he first moved into the area full-time and became actively involved in transportation issues in 2014, there was a tendency to “prioritize cars over everything else.”

Now, Auwaerter says, he has noticed a more balanced and nuanced approach taking into account the interests pedestrians and cyclists as well. That’s why he thinks the new request for a crosswalk on A1A at the CVS drugstore now has a chance of being approved.

“I believe we’ve got a shot this time,” Auwaerter said. “At least they listen now.”

Installation of the crosswalk would likely cost about $100,000 and Shaw believes that the Town Council might agree to foot at least part of the bill with FDOT if state authorities agree to the request.

But it’s not primarily a money issue. State Road A1A is just that – a state road – with FDOT being responsible for its maintenance. “We couldn’t do it on our own even if we wanted to,” Shaw said. “They don’t like others playing in their sandbox. So we’ll just keep asking for it until we get it.”

CVS has not asked for the crosswalk, and neither has the 7-Eleven store next to it. A CVS manager said her customers mostly drive up to the store; few get there by crossing the road on foot. Both Shaw and Auwaerter said they are not asking for the crosswalk to aid local businesses – it’s simply a safety issue for local pedestrians and cyclists.

Shaw called the stretch of A1A that fronts the CVS drugstore and the adjoining 7-Eleven convenience store and gas station a “dangerous area” which is about to get even more perilous as a development of new beachfront townhomes at the former Tracking Station nears completion and people start moving in.

As it stands, many residents on the west (lagoon) side of A1A trying to get to the Tracking Station public beach area cross A1A on foot carrying beach paraphernalia and take their lives into their own hands as they weave through motor vehicle traffic. Shaw said to accompany the Town’s latest request for the crosswalk, he sent FDOT a copy of 8 hours of video shot from a patrol car he parked at the spot recently showing “all kinds of craziness.”

Auwaerter added that traffic at the intersection is even more complex because many landscaping crews stop at the 7-Eleven en route to and from their worksites while workers get bottles of water or other drinks and/or snacks for the day, entering and leaving the highway pulling big trailers behind their pickup trucks.

In its previous refusals to consider a pedestrian crosswalk at the spot, FDOT had cited a lack of accidents in the area. “They said we didn’t have high enough numbers to justify it,” said Shaw. A pedestrian fatality last February when a woman in her 80s was struck by a motorist while crossing A1A could not be considered because it was in the 5400 block of A1A at the entrance to the Del Mar development, several hundred feet north of the proposed crosswalk site. Similarly, a bicycle fatality further north along A1A could not be considered, either, because it occurred too far away.

Another open issue is what kind of a crosswalk it would be even if the request is granted.

Auwaerter said ideally, the crosswalk would be one with an on-demand push-button traffic light that would let pedestrians and cyclists cross safely while motorists are forced to stop for a red light like the one at the Jaycee Park.

However, other lesser configurations with a flashing light, or a warning sign and painted stripes on the road surface, are possible, too.

“We’re willing to compromise,” Auwaerter said. “Anything is better than nothing.”

Auwaerter called the previous traffic study done in September worthless. “Everybody knows we have a great degree of variability in our seasons,” he said. “I could lie spread-eagled in the middle of A1A in September and I might lie there undisturbed for about 20 minutes. In January or February, I wouldn’t last 5 seconds in that position.”

Not all Indian River Shores residents agree the crosswalk is needed. One septuagenarian woman who walks daily for exercise along A1A sometimes combines her walk with a drugstore trip to pick up a prescription. She appreciates the efforts of the Town to put a crosswalk there, but she says she’s never had any problem crossing the road on foot.

“Some cars slowed down to let me cross,” she said, “even without there being a formal crosswalk.”

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