Capitol Building Intersection Renovation

Tallahassee, Florida

Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center

Two parking decks were often used simply as a cut-through and intersections were poorly designed for pedestrians, resulting frequent pedestrian-motorist conflicts.

The State Capitol attracts many pedestrians when the legislature is in session to an adjacent "T" intersection of two major arterials. The Agency for Workforce Innovation is also nearby, the parking for which is housed on a small side street that led many pedestrians to make illegal midblock crossings. Employees were frequently "bumped" by passing cars. In addition, an adjacent Veteran's Memorial was inaccessible by ADA standards. On top of it all, pedestrians were often forced to wait at an awkward curb and cross the intersection diagonally across the 5-lane road.

At the prodding of the Secretary of the Agency for Workforce Innovation (AWI), the former solution of merely prohibiting mid-block crossings was revisited. Together the AWI and the DOT evaluated the problems and came up with a list of proposed improvements that were reviewed by the Citizen's Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee and eventually adopted by both agencies.

The timing was right for the project. Less than two years prior, the Tallahassee Downtown Improvement Authority published a pedestrian master plan advocating an improved pedestrian environment. They also recently completed a similar project just north of the intersection. Since the major arterials were state highways requiring federal funds be used, the project had to go forward as an amendment to the Metropolitan Planning Organization's (MPO) 5-year Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP). The support of the Downtown Improvement Authority and the local State Representative was crucial to the success of the project.

The major improvements included replacing the deteriorating sidewalks, installing ADA approved curb ramps, and upgrading the pedestrian signals to countdown signals. Narrow "Yield to Pedestrians within Crosswalk" signs were installed. The 5-lane road was converted to 4-lanes with raised medians and turning lanes. The curbs were extended to slow down turning cars and to give increased space to waiting pedestrians. The left turn time was extended to allow more cars to pass, while also encouraging them to afford the right-of-way to crossing pedestrians.

Perhaps most significantly, the two parking decks had their access points on the main street closee, eliminating cut-through traffic and conflicts with pedestrians. This also allowed the diagonal crosswalk to be realigned and straightened. Approval of this action had to be obtained through the Department of Management Services separately from the other improvements made. Though this required the removal of 6 parking spaces, the trade-off was considered acceptable in order to achieve greater safety. Several other issues not addressed in the design stage were noted and improved during the construction phase: poor drainage from one parking deck that was causing the sloped sidewalk to become slippery was fixed, and the deteriorated pavement causing pedestrians to trip in the ruts was resurfaced.

In addition, the DOT partnered with the Police Department to conduct targeted enforcement of the intersection, emphasizing motorist compliance with the pedestrian right-of-way. Another phase of targeted enforcement is planned for a nearby intersection.

The entire project was completed in just over a year, with the dialog process beginning in the summer of 2005, and the construction completed before the opening of the legislative session in the winter of 2006. The $100,000 design costs were funded through Surface Transportation Program funds, while the $300,000 for construction costs were supplied though federal SAFETEA funds.

More pedestrians are using the signalized crosswalks as a result of the improvements. Estimated counts of pedestrians found that prior to the project, about 96 percent used the mid-block crossing, while less than a year later only about 50 percent do. Even for those who do, the intersection is considerably safer, and motorist-pedestrian conflicts are rare. Feedback from walkers is particularly positive for the newly installed countdown signals.

Mary Anne Koos
Special Projects Coordinator-Roadway Design
Florida Department of Transportation
Tallahassee, FL
(850) 414-4321

Filed in: Engineering, Enforcement

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