The St. Petersburg City Council voted to formally oppose a measure in the Florida legislature Thursday, which in its current state would result in the removal of most of the city’s crosswalks using Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFBs).
RRFBs are one of the most common tools the city of St. Petersburg uses to make crosswalks safer. Based on numbers from the Federal Highway Administration, RRFBs can reduce pedestrian crashes by 47 percent. That reduction is sorely needed when, according to reports from numerous agencies, Pinellas County has some of the highest number of pedestrian fatalities per capita in the state of Florida.
“This measure is taking away proven pedestrian measures to improve safety,” said Council Member Brandi Gabbard, a member of the Forward Pinellas Board, the county’s land use and transportation planning agency. “We get the fatality reports in our back-up [materials] that show us the faces, and the names, and the pictures of people that have died on our roads. So for me, this is really a no-brainer.”
SB 1000 and its companion bill HB 1371 would significantly change the situations in which RRFBs are allowed to be installed, and require the removal of existing RRFBs that don’t meet the new standards. The devices would only be allowed on two-lane roads with posted speeds of 35 miles per hour or less. The legislation would allow for other devices, like full signals to be used at crosswalks for roads with more lanes and higher speeds, but city staff says these changes are untested, and estimate the conversion to red lights would cost upwards of $300,000 per crosswalk.
Where the city could not afford to convert a crosswalk to the new standard by 2024, the city estimates the legislation would require the city to remove or alter 93 of its 130-plus pedestrian crosswalks.
If the city replaced just 20 percent of those 93 crosswalks with full signals, it estimates the economic impact to be upwards of $5.5 million dollars, and believes it would cost over $500,000 to remove the remaining 75 RRFB devices.
The proposed legislation would stand squarely in the way of the recently adopted Complete Streets Implementation Plan, which calls for an additional 190 pedestrian and bicycle crossings to be installed, many of which would be equipped with RRFB devices.
The legislation would also stand in opposition to the Florida Department of Transportation’s statewide Complete Streets Policy and new Florida Design Manual, which, according to the city, directly supports using tools like RRFB devices.
St. Petersburg City Council joins Forward Pinellas, the Florida Section and Tampa Bay Section of the Institute of Transportation Engineers in opposition to the measure. The resolution, adopted by unanimous vote of the council, formally opposes the legislation and asks Governor Ron DeSantis to veto the legislation, should it be approved.