Construction continues on University Avenue as two new traffic signals have been installed along the busy road as part of new safety plan.
Concern for pedestrian and road safety on University Avenue has been a major concern ever since the tragic deaths of two University of Florida students in the winter of 2020-21. In May 2021, the Florida Department of Transportation made efforts to respond to these concerns by implementing temporary 3-inch speed tables along the road to slow down speeding drivers.
Since then, officials have focused on plans to permanently improve the safety on this busy campus-adjacent road. Drivers and pedestrians can now see the plans coming to fruition, with FDOT working on the Street Signalization Project and Street Safety Improvements Project on University Avenue.
The new project seen on University Avenue in late January is the Street Signalization project. Two new traffic signals have been added on the westbound side of University Avenue at Northwest 16th Street and Northwest 19th Street. They are not up and running yet, as the new intersections have not been completed.
Daryl Goss, a spokesperson for FDOT, said the state will be “adding signalized crosswalks for pedestrians to walk” on these new intersections.
The project is currently working on the westbound lanes, which are made into one-lane roads due to construction barricades. Once they complete the construction on the westbound lanes, they will move over to the eastbound lanes, Goss said.
In addition, he said, that the project is expected to be complete this spring and the setup will go back to normalized traffic.
Kendall DeFranco, a University of Florida senior, was in Gainesville during the tragic traffic events two years ago and shared her thoughts on the construction.
“I think with adding the new crosswalks and adding the new speed bumps it is definitely making University (Avenue) a lot safer as a road. Before, a lot of tragic things were happening where it was unsafe, so I’m glad they are taking actions to try and mitigate those outcomes,” DeFranco said.
DeFranco recalled the problems she saw on University Avenue before these safety precautions were put into place.
“Without the speed barricades, I remember cars going a lot faster… With the speed barricades there and now the new lights they are installing, it will be more enforced,” she said.
Bowman Reid, senior at the University of Florida, sees the new construction as something that could slow down his day, but will be helpful for the community, nonetheless.
“I think traffic is going to get worse, but at the same time people are going to be able to cross the street without getting hit as easily as running across the street with no street signs,” said Reid.
Reid suggested that these new lights could aid the unaware walker that he sees around campus.
“There is a ton of people that just put their headphones in and look at their phone and walk across without really knowing what’s going on. For those people, if they wait to see the white hand (on the cross walk) instead of making a run for it, it will be a lot better.”
According to FDOT, the Street Signalization Project will cost a little over $1 million, and the Street Safety Improvements will cost $2.6 million once completed.
Additionally, new raised cross walks will serve as traffic calming devices in lieu of the current speed tables, and FDOT will be looking to improve sidewalks and curbs. This will be a part of the Street Safety Improvements Project and will not conclude until late 2023.