Be prepared to feel like a star — or at least a model — when crossing Las Olas Boulevard. A pedestrian's push of button will soon make the crosswalk at Southeast 13th Avenue light up like a miniature runway.
Yellow lights embedded in the street's pavement will activate like a strobe light to alert drivers that someone is crossing the street — something that at night can be difficult to see. The LED lights, which can be seen up to 1,500 feet away, also will work during the day.
The $50,000 crosswalk is set to make its flashy debut in early May — the first time the technology will be used on a public street in South Florida. City spokeswoman Monique Damiano said eventually it could be used in other locations with a high number of pedestrians.
It currently is in use on a private road at the Downtown at the Gardens mall in Palm Beach Gardens.
Officials hope the crosswalk will improve safety on the busy city street where a test of wills sometimes determines the right of way between drivers and those strolling.
"We've had severe problems with aggressive traffic," said Robin Merrill, founder of the year-old Las Olas Village Association.
Studies by the Federal Highway Administration show drivers who see a flashing or illuminated crosswalk brake sooner and yield to pedestrians more often than those in areas without them.
The number of accidents is about 80 percent lower than at standard crosswalks, according to California-based Traffic Safety Corp., which sold the lighted crosswalk to Palm Beach Gardens, Naples, Melbourne, Tampa, Gainesville and Jacksonville.
On Las Olas, drivers pick up speed as they leave the main shopping area and Southeast 13th Avenue is the point where Las Olas transitions from an urban setting to a fast road to the beach.
The city has imposed several measures to help pedestrians on Las Olas in recent years. In 2011, the speed limit was reduced between South Andrews and Southeast 15th Avenues from 30 mph to 25 mph.
Last year, the city modified two Las Olas intersections at Southeast Eighth and Ninth avenues to allow an all-red cycle, when only pedestrians can cross the street. It was the first such test in Broward County. Officials intend to bring the all-red cycle permanently back to both intersections in the near future.
The city also wants to reconfigure a stretch of Las Olas where the road widens to four lanes east of the bridge over the Himmarshee Canal. The plan, which would need county approval, would reduce traffic to one lane in each direction, with a center turn lane and bike lanes in both directions.
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