SATELLITE BEACH, Fla. – The Florida Department of Transportation has proposed reducing the State Road A1A speed limit from 45 to 35 mph in Satellite Beach and nearby communities to reduce danger for pedestrians.
Since 1991, Satellite Beach leaders have lobbied FDOT for a lower speed limit — to no avail. But the Dec. 22 fatal crash that claimed the life of Surfside Elementary sixth grader Sophia Nelson at a flashing-beacon crosswalk has triggered a political wave across Brevard County, calling for SR A1A safety reforms, according to News 6 partner Florida Today.
“High speed is like a gun. And texting is like a bullet. You put high speed and distracted driving together, you’ve got a deadly weapon," Pete Petyk said Monday during a Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization committee meeting.
“So reducing the speed limit, you’re removing either the bullet or the gun. And you’re making things a lot better,” Petyk said.
Loreen Bobo, FDOT director of transportation development, unveiled the proposed 35 mph speed limit and an array of crosswalk safety features to the Space Coast TPO Technical/Citizen Advisory Committee at the Center for Collaboration in Rockledge.
Monday’s meeting served as a preview to Thursday’s SR A1A pedestrian safety discussion by the Space Coast TPO governing board, which is composed of a variety of Brevard elected officials. That meeting starts at 1:30 p.m. in Building C of the Government Center in Viera.
“In the wake of the crash fatality in Satellite Beach involving a child, the safety of the Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons for mid-block crossings have been scrutinized due to higher speed, distracted driving, and a lack of education by motorists and pedestrians,” Thursday's meeting agenda says.
“A solution-oriented discussion will take place regarding short-term, interim and long-term solutions to improve pedestrian safety along A1A. Engineering is only a piece of the transportation puzzle, as it will require a comprehensive and holistic approach involving education and enforcement,” the agenda says.
FDOT has nearly finished installing 16 mid-block crosswalks with pedestrian-activated "rectangular rapid flashing beacon" yellow lights along a 6.2-mile stretch of SR A1A, stretching southward to Indialantic.
Nelson was fatally struck in the Ellwood Avenue crosswalk in Satellite Beach — triggering a protest attended by nearly 100 demonstrators.
In addition to the SR A1A 35 mph speed reduction, Bobo said FDOT has proposed installing:
- Advance warning signs with flashing lights, notifying motorists that they are approaching mid-block crosswalks.
- Six small “gateway signs” at each crosswalk to remind drivers to stop for pedestrians.
- New crosswalk signs warning pedestrians to “Wait For Traffic To Stop” and “Cross With Caution.”
In November, the Indian Harbour Beach City Council unanimously adopted a resolution asking FDOT to reduce the speed limit on SR A1A in beachside Brevard, citing danger to pedestrians.
- Installing HAWK crosswalk signals. Listed as “experimental” by FDOT, these push-button signals flash yellow to alert motorists, then shift to a solid yellow light and a steady red light.
- Removing the mid-block crosswalks altogether.
- Suspending construction of the additional mid-block crosswalks from Indian Harbour Beach southward to Indialantic.
“Regardless of the safety improvements considered, one of the most consistent complaints I continue to hear is the current RRFB system creates a false sense of security for pedestrians, and I absolutely agree,” Nickle wrote.
“I have personally seen several instances whereby either a motorist does not stop when a pedestrian activates the lights and has started to cross the road, or the pedestrian immediately enters the crosswalk without looking to see if vehicles are stopping,” he wrote.
To the north, Titusville Mayor Walt Johnson wrote a letter to FDOT last month criticizing the RRFB crosswalk on northbound U.S. 1 at Julia Street in the historic downtown district, Florida Today reported.
Johnson wrote that Titusville officials have repeatedly asked FDOT to reevaluate the crosswalk — and multiple pedestrians have been struck by vehicles since flashing beacons were installed.
Johnson asked FDOT to replace the yellow-beacon equipment with HAWK equipment "most expeditiously."
"We are extremely fortunate that there has not been a fatality at this intersection," Johnson wrote.
Bobo said a SR A1A planning workshop will be scheduled in early spring in Indian Harbour Beach. She said HAWK signal installation must meet stringent traffic engineering requirements, so today's flashing-yellow crosswalk signals cannot simply be converted.
“You can’t just switch them out. It’s not just a matter of putting red bulbs in and replacing the yellow bulbs," Bobo said.
Melbourne Deputy City Manager Jenni Lamb agreed.
"You just can’t switch them out to red lights. That is a huge misconception that is out there,” Lamb said.