City leaders gave the green light to Renaissance Planning Group to perform a pedestrian mobility study along Harbor Boulevard.
"If we don't do this study we will not be able to move ahead with any type of traffic devices," City Manager Maryann Ustick told the City Council at last week’s meeting. "Regardless of how we move ahead, the first thing that has to be done is a warrant study."
The study, which would cost the city no more than $28,099, would help to determine the appropriate course of action moving forward as the city and its traffic consultants (RPG) look for the best way to safely move pedestrians across U.S. Hwy. 98 between Stahlman Avenue and Marler Street.
Given that Hwy. 98 is the city’s only major east-west artery, city leaders are somewhat limited in the options they have available to them. While the goal is to safely allow pedestrians to cross the roadway, allowing traffic to continue flowing is also important.
Options for the city to consider are a pedestrian activated HAWK signal, which hangs on mast arms above the roadway; horizontal pedestrian beacons, which are vertical posts on the side of the roadway with crosswalks; basic crosswalk enhancements; or a full traffic signal that includes signalized crosswalks, which could cost up to $300,000.
While specific crossing systems were not addressed during the most recent meeting, Councilman Tuffy Dixon threw his support behind full signalization.
"I'm absolutely, one hundred percent on board with a full-fledged traffic signal with some sort of integrated crossing," he said.
And Dixon isn't the only one calling for a full traffic signal. Based on documents from the city, business and property owners along the harbor are willing to help out financially if the city can get a traffic signal approved at the Marler Street intersection.
A portion of the letter sent to the city pledging support reads "the business owners along the harbor are united in the belief that the safest way to accomplish this is via a fully signalized traffic light. Because the distance between the Stahlman traffic signal and the Benning traffic signal is over 4,000 feet, this light will provide a safer roadway for vehicles traveling both east and west through downtown Destin."
Business owners who have agreed to pledge financially include Ray Watson ($5,000), Alan Laird ($25,000), Keith Howard ($25,000), Claude Perry ($25,000), and Dewey Destin ($5,000).
As the city moves forward with the study, they have one advantage that typically isn't available to them, the ability to use future projections of activity, based on the addition of the harbor boardwalk and the completion of the Marler Street parking lot.
Once the study begins, Community Development Director Ken Gallander said it would take at least three to four months before the results would be available to the Florida Department of Transportation for analysis.
The study is expected to begin in April.