Crosswalk project in progress

Savannah Vasquez

Work has begun on the pedestrian activated lighted crosswalk project in Destin. Since April 4, the Florida Department of Transportation has already laid the groundwork for the five signals which will be installed just west of Marler Street, in front of AJ’s Seafood & Oyster Bar, just west of Melvin Street, in front of Big Kahuna’s and in front of Chick-Fil-A to help with pedestrian crossings along busy U.S. Highway 98.

“They have laid underground conduits, the foundations for signals, and the concrete walkway in the me-dian,” said Public Information Officer Ian Satter. “The next step will be to add the mast arms over the travel lanes.”

The estimated cost for the crosswalk project is $750,000 which was fronted by the City of Destin and will be reimbursed by the FDOT over the next three to five years.

“It is no secret that crossing Highway 98/Harbor Blvd. on foot can be challenging and dangerous,” said City Manager Greg Kisela. “These signals will go a long way in providing pedestrians more accommodating and safe ways to cross Highway 98. We are very thankful that FDOT was willing to work with us to expedite this part of their long-range project. Their partnership is greatly appreciated.”

Driving through Destin, especially during the peak tourist seasons of spring and summer, it is not un-common to see groups of people darting across the highway as some motorists do not realize it is the law to stop at a pedestrian crosswalk if someone is waiting to cross.

In fact, according to an FDOT study conducted in 2015 along the 3.5-mile section of U.S. Highway 98 from Marler Bridge to Indian Trail, the area sees 40,000 vehicles per day and a majority of those motor-ists are not aware of pedestrians whether they are in the crosswalk or not. Another study conducted by the FDOT and the Okaloosa County Sherriff’s Office revealed that between 2007 and 2013 the area saw a total of 617 incidents with 18 percent of them involving pedestrians.

Satter explained that the new light system will now force motorists to notice, as the pedestrian acti-vated light will turn red when in use.

“The light will be in flashing yellow mode until activated and then it will signal an internal timer and stop the traffic in that area to allow the pedestrians to cross,” he said.

The project is scheduled to continue over the next month and a half during non-peak hours of the day and wrap up in mid-July.