State may approve crossing

By Steve Estes

After more than a decade of existence, the Big Pine Academy, formerly the Big Pine Neighborhood Charter School, may be in line for a school crossing zone designation from the state Department of Transportation.

Last month the Monroe Board of County Commissioners allocated about $2,000 in matching funds to hire URS Corp., a long-time county traffic consultant, to perform a school zone analysis for the small charter school of about 190 students next to the flea market.

The remainder of the consultant contract will be funded by FDOT.

URS says that it can have the draft report done by mid-September, and if the county moves quickly, can have the final report about a month later.

“If a school crossing is justified,the report will identify specific justifications for recommending the school crossing,type of crossing and an appropriate location across US 1 near Big Pine Academy,” stated the consultant scope of work document.

As part of the study, the consultant will record travel speeds and vehicle numbers along US 1 near the school, as well as pedestrian traffic during peak hours of student drop-off and pick-up.

As the school has grown over the years from about 30 kids to current levels, more parents have been walking kids to the school than in the past. There have been no reported serious accidents in the general area during school hours.

The only dedicated pedestrian crossing zone for US 1 in Big Pine is at the traffic light at the Key Deer Blvd. Intersection. That forces parents to cross the highway at its busiest location and walk along the bike/pedestrian path on the highway’s south side to get to the school.

Many folks ignore that crossing at the intersection, particularly those who live east of the school, and cross at the school with no crossing zone.

According to county transportation planner Trish Smith, a task order for the crossing has already been submitted to FDOT to facilitate the process, anticipating that the report will show the need for a crossing at the location.

Should the final report show a crossing isn’t justified, the task order will be scrapped.

Smith said the crossing is being contemplated to enhance student safety during school sessions.

The county is also working on improving pedestrian safety near the Crane Blvd. Intersection with US 1 on Sugarloaf Key.

Transit busses will stop at the intersection to discharge passengers, but there is no dedicated pedestrian crossing. Smith said that if the county can build a pedestrian sidewalk from the intersection to the school, she may be able to get FDOT to agree to another pedestrian crossing at that location.

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