FORT PIERCE — The new federal courthouse kitty-corner from City Hall has brought more people and traffic to U.S. 1, presenting difficulties and safety concerns for pedestrians and motorists, particularly at the Orange Avenue intersection.
The timing of signals results in traffic congestion, and people trying to walk across the intersection find themselves rushed to beat the light. In addition to city and federal workers who use the intersection frequently, other pedestrians have expressed concern about walking to the Arcade Building and other local businesses, as well as City Hall and the courthouse.
“With the opening of the new federal courthouse and connecting downtown with everything, there is a fair number of pedestrians crossing,” City Engineer John Andrews said. “Different pedestrians have asked for a longer time to cross and a safer method to get across the U.S. 1 intersection.”
Currently, there is a period when traffic is stopped in all directions or when pedestrians cannot use any of the legs to cross, even diagonally.
All that may change with a proposed project to ease congestion, which includes retiming the signals, creating a left-turn lane onto westbound Orange Avenue and creating an exclusive pedestrian crossing to permit even diagonal crossing.
“If a left turn is added, both eastbound and westbound traffic can run concurrently, providing an extra phase for pedestrian crossing,” Andrews said. “The westbound traffic stops with adding this turn lane. … It’s the way to go.”
Funding is scheduled for 2015-16 when work is expected to get under way. The St. Lucie Transportation Planning Organization, which presented the proposed project to the city, has earmarked $300,000 annually for such road projects through 2035, but for construction only.
The Florida Department of Transportation likely would fund the design and project management. FDOT is receptive to the idea and has asked the city to submit a formal request letter for the project, Andrews said.
The City Commission, which considered the project at a July 16 budget workshop, must get public input, re-evaluate the project and approve conceptual plans, Andrews said.