UCF, Orange County deem pedestrian bridge unrealistic
On the morning of Feb. 23, 2014, UCF student Brooke Dawkins was hit by a truck as she crossed Alafaya Trail and Gemini Boulevard. Just days later, the 19-year-old Kappa Delta sister was removed from life support after suffering a severe brain injury.
Dawkins is one of at least 10 people who have died at intersections near UCF, according to Florida Highway Patrol data and as previously reported by the Future.
Geoffrey Pimpernelle died in April 2014 after being struck by a car while crossing University Boulevard and Technological Avenue, according to Florida Today. Pimpernelle was a 22-year-old French foreign exchange student studying at UCF.
At the Beyond Traffic Forum on Oct. 2, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer spoke on a panel with other Florida mayors and transportation specialists to discuss ways to assess the future of transportation innovations and safety, where ideas on how to cater to millennials was a central theme.
“We have a reputation of not being a pedestrian-friendly region, and we need to take appropriate steps to cure that,” Dyer said.
Working alongside Florida Department of Transportation, UCF and Orange County’s Transportation and Planning Division have been conducting studies to analyze the best way to prevent pedestrian fatalities and injuries near campus. A study spanning a 5-mile radius encompassing the major intersections near campus — University Boulevard, McCulloch Road and Alafaya Trail — tallies the number of pedestrian crossers, fatalities and injuries, including interviews with student-housing locations.
A pedestrian bridge has long been in the talks, but at a media roundtable in late September, SGA President Cait Zona said the bridge project would “never work.”
Brian Sanders, OCTPD project manager, said the bridge is not looking like a feasible solution and would cost an estimated $6 million to construct.
“It’s a cost-benefit kind of analysis,” he said. “Do you put up a pedestrian bridge and do nothing else, or do you try to put as many improvements to help the pedestrians and bikers out?
“Part of the problem with a pedestrian bridge is the roadway acquisition needed. How do you install and construct the ramps needed for those structures? That’s the balancing act that we have to be cognizant of.”
While several UCF Advanced Design Lab students and faculty submitted renditions of detailed bridge concepts last year, the renderings would still be costly to construct, and pedestrian and bike-traffic patterns have different implications than car-traffic control, Sanders said. Regulation can be trickier for pedestrians and bikers, for example, when constructing large ramps that could stretch 300 feet to hold the bridge up. This would potentially breach into vehicle right-of-way areas.
Sanders explained that constructing more midpoint and ground-level crossings — which would cost an estimated $160,000 to construct — is a solution more likely to be implemented, since pedestrians may not use a bridge when ground-level crossing is available. Likely, a midpoint crossing will be constructed at Solon Drive near University Apartments on Alafaya Trail.
“Our job is to create those inviting features that attract [pedestrians and bikers] to safe crossings,” he said.
There are multiple intersection reconfigurations that are being focused on to provide enhanced crosswalks, lighting and landscaping that work as guideways, along with signalization upgrades, Sanders said. Landscaping concepts would include aesthetic changes, such as color or textured pavement, increasing awareness of pedestrian areas.
While these solutions are being discussed, none are set in stone. The most appropriate improvements and those in charge of funding them must first be identified, Sanders said.
“I believe that we can affect a greater change in the access and behavior for bikes and pedestrians if we use a wider variety of improvements rather than just one — and the one would be the pedestrian bridge, and it would eat up all the money that would have been allocated for all the rest of the improvements,” he said.
Nada Hassanein is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @nhassanein_ or email her at NadaH@centralfloridafuture.com.