Cape Canaveral wants lower speed limit, more crosswalks
State Road A1A is very heavy with traffic
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Residents say that when traffic is heavy it takes lots of patience for motorists to make a left-hand turn onto State Road A1A or for pedestrians to cross the busy roadway.
"A1A is a disaster," said Ed Kinda, who lives off Long Point Road. "Sometimes you have to sit there for 10 minutes before you can make a left."
Local 6 News partner Florida Today says Kinda's wife, Crystal Kinda, said walking across the roadway with traffic going at 45 mph, is like taking a chance with your life.
"To walk across it is scary, even at a light," she said.
At least three pedestrian accidents in Cape Canaveral in the last five years were fatal, according to Brevard County Sheriff's Office records. The most recent occurred April 23 when 58-year-old Laurie Easter was struck by a car and killed while crossing A1A at Polk Avenue, about four blocks north of Buchanan.
City officials want the state to lower the speed limit on the stretch of A1A that runs through their city, saying it would make it safer and easier for residents and visitors. It is also now exploring whether it would be possible to add crosswalks with pedestrian activated traffic lights.
"Every year we send a written request to come verify our speed, that it is too fast," Mayor Rocky Randels said. "We didn't have all this congestion 30 years ago. We believe that 35 is the maximum speed."
Cape Canaveral City Council has been requesting Florida Department of Transportation to lower the speed from 45 mph to 35 mph since at least the 1980s according to city documents.
A letter in 1989 from FDOT said: "We cannot justify a reduction in the speed limit along SR A1A. You may want to consider additional enforcement of the existing posted speed limit. We found that motorists, especially in the northern section of the city, were exceeding the 45 mph speed limit."
City officials at one time even appealed to a state representative and a state senator after they were turned down in the 1989 letter from FDOT.
FDOT responses are essentially the same over the years. It tells Cape Canaveral that there are certain guidelines that are followed. FDOT said that speed limits are normally set at or near the prevailing or 85th percentile of the speed of free flowing, unimpeded traffic.
"We have received requests over the years to reduce the speed limit on A1A in Cape Canaveral," FDOT spokesman Steve Olson wrote in an email to Florida Today. "Each time we review, we find that vehicle speeds are consistent with posted speeds and there is not a safety problem directly attributed to vehicle speeds. As development and conditions change along a corridor, driving speeds can change, as can safety history. That is why studying is important and why it is not appropriate to just assign a chosen speed limit. Our goal is to provide meaningful speed limits to promote safe, uniform speeds."
City officials argue that development and conditions have changed in recent years in Cape Canaveral after the cruise industry brought more tourists and the supporting businesses that go along with it.
Randels said the traffic wasn't as heavy when the city started asking for the lower speed limit, but has increased in recent years with six car rental companies, three large hotels and other businesses and more tourists passing through town.
"We had a lady and a child hit just recently," Randels said. "We believe that 35 is the maximum speed."
Kevin Hotaling said that if speeds were lower, motorists would more likely notice businesses along the roadway, but it would also be of great help to those drivers in rental cars who are not familiar with the area.
"Its more of a safety standpoint," said Hotaling, who owns Finest Floors of Brevard on A1A in Cape Canaveral.
City officials said there are many residents in the city who walk or bike to and from work and they want to make it safer them.
State Road 528 turns into SR A1A near Port Canaveral and the speed limit drops from 60 mph to 45 mph just before entering the Cape Canaveral city limits
City officials said that motorists often fail to slow to the 45 mph, though when traffic is congested, motorists cannot drive the 45 mph.
In Cocoa Beach, the speed limit drops to 35 mph, though it might not be clear to many drivers exactly where that happens.
Even in Cocoa Beach, traffic often moves slower than the 35 mph limit because of congestion, especially on the stretch between State Road 520 and Minutemen Causeway.
South of Cocoa Beach the speed limit increases first to 45 mph and then 55 mph in front of Patrick Air Force Base. South of the Pineda Causeway it drops back to 45 mph.
Satellite Beach also recently asked for its speed to be lowered on A1A, but the request was turned down by FDOT.
"After careful examination of the area, we found that lowering the speed limit along the corridor is not justified as the existing speed limit is appropriate and consistent with prevailing free flowing traffic," wrote Richard Morrow, FDOT district traffic operations engineer.
Instead, FDOT said it would add a 45mph speed limit sign it said could improve safety and operations north of Cassia Boulevard.
With only four traffic lights on the nearly two-mile stretch of A1A through the city, officials said it sometimes difficult for pedestrians to cross the roadway.
Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization's 2014 Countywide Safety report shows five pedestrian and four bicycle accidents occurred in an 8-block section of A1A between McKinley Avenue in the northern edge of Cocoa Beach to Buchanan Avenue in Cape Canaveral between 2009 and 2014
At Buchanan, where there is a traffic light, another woman died in January 2011 when a truck pulling a trailer hit her as she crossed A1A.
"The road divides the community," said Jeff Ratliff, the city's public works director. "There are huge gaps between lights."
Because of those gaps, pedestrians often cross where there are no crosswalks, stopping in the median to wait for a lull in traffic to get the rest of the way across.
The city is also proposing a pedestrian-activated warning flashers, similar to ones at mid-blocks along Tampa's Fletcher Avenues, where there are frequent crossings.
Todd Morley, the city's community and economic development director, said city officials want the crosswalks in at least two locations, on the north side of Columbia Drive and at Polk Avenue.
"We can't make people cross there, but we can request FDOT provide it for them," Morley said.
Randels said accidents generally happen mid-blocks, between lights and that the pedestrian-activated warning lights should help.
"This is an effective thing that will work for us," he said.
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