Key West commissioners want more safety at new crosswalks

A motorcyclist was killed near this crosswalk not long ago.
A motorcyclist was killed near this crosswalk not long ago.

Flashing yellow lights on North Roosevelt Boulevard in Key West continue to be a concern for both motorists and pedestrians.

The City Commission is scheduled to vote on a resolution Wednesday to ask the state Department of Transportation to modify how the crosswalks work. The road serves many as the entryway into Southernmost City from U.S. 1.

"I typically use the crosswalk in front of the Capital Bank building. It can be dangerous at times," said City Commissioner Sam Kaufman, who sponsored the resolution to be voted on and walks North Roosevelt several times a week.

There are six crosswalks on North Roosevelt Boulevard from mile marker 1.2 and 2.27. They flash yellow lights. Kaufman wants them to have a button that pedestrians can push to make them go solid red when needed. He said another possible solution is lowering North Roosevelt's speed limit from the current 35 mph.

"This is not the mainland; people need to slow down," he said. "Whatever DOT can do to make them safer, that should be the goal."

The crosswalk near the Capital Bank building has been under extra scrutiny since last month when motorcyclist Christopher Don Pearson, 42, of Key West died in a collision with a BMW sport utility vehicle there.

The driver of the BMW, Rebekkah Ashe of Key West, was turning west out of Capital Bank on North Roosevelt when Pearson, who she said was speeding, hit the back of her car.

The crosswalks were put in during the two-year, $41-million rebuild of North Roosevelt Boulevard that ended in August 2014.

DOT also continues to take heat over a crosswalk it installed near mile marker 99.7 in Key Largo in 2014. It activates a yellow light when a pedestrian pushes a button. There have been minor crashes there because some drivers don't know to stop once the blinking light activate.

Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay was outraged DOT installed that crosswalk without consulting his office. He fears it's only a matter of time before someone is killed or seriously injured there.

DOT drew up $168,000 plans in May to make the Key Largo crosswalk more visible to drivers. What those plans are aren't clear.

DOT could not be reached for comment Tuesday about the North Roosevelt crosswalks.

After last month's fatality, Monroe County Commissioner Heather Carruthers e-mailed DOT District 6 Secretary Gus Pego with a list of stories from locals on Facebook about the crosswalks. Pego told Carruthers that DOT's Traffic Operations Office would have to conduct the necessary studies.

Also Wednesday:

  • The board will vote on moving the one of the city's two panhandling zones from the 900 block of Caroline Street to the 600 block of Greene Street. City law makes panhandling illegal with the exception of the two zones, one at Mallory Square and the other on Caroline, next to the city's parking garage. The city's executive summary notes that the proposed change is to accommodate a proposed bus stop on the 900 block of Caroline.

  • The commission will look to approve the purchase of 12 new Ford Interceptor police cars and two unmarked police Ford SUVs totaling $398,361.50. The vehicles replace 2006 and 2009 model Fords.

  • The commission will vote whether to remove Richard Klitenick from the city's Planning Board. New City Commissioner Richard Payne wants him off the board.

  • The commission will consider an ordinance that would put buying the Peary Court subdivision as affordable city housing up to referendum on March 15. A sale price of $55 million has been talked about for the 157-unit housing complex just off Palm Avenue. A group called White Street Partners owns it.

The City Commission meets tonight at Old City Hall on Greene Street at 6 p.m.