SPRING HILL - After the Hernando County School District eliminated busing within a two-mile radius of schools last year to reduce costs, the county has had to undertake several traffic safety improvement projects with an influx of students walking across roadways.
A three-month traffic engineering study conducted by Hernando County Division of Transportation Services concluded a high number of students have been crossing the four lanes of traffic on Mariner Boulevard outside of Springstead High School.
As a result, a crosswalk, concrete island, and two mass arms with flashing yellow beacons totaling $139,993 are being constructed there in an effort to improve student safety for the upcoming school year, according to Project Manager Mike Ullven.
"The flashing beacons are for the school zone indicating to reduce speed to 15 mph," Ullven said, adding the project will replace the former roadside beacons. "The overhead (mass arms) gives the driver on the inside lane more visibility of the reduced speed if, for example, they are driving alongside a truck."
Ullven said the project will be completed today, and that the only traffic signal on the mass arms will be a yellow, flashing yield-signal.
The Hernando County Sheriff's Office has been working to educate motorists about new traffic laws that apply in the school zone, particularly when students are waiting to cross at the crosswalk on Mariner Boulevard, or are standing on the concrete island in the center of the road.
"What they need to understand is, when students are at that stop walk, those vehicles do need to come to a stop to allow the students to walk," said Lt. John Cameron, adding a crossing guard also will be present there. "That is a citable offense to not yield for a cross walker."
Failing to reduce speed to 15 mph is a moving infraction costing $164 and three points against one's license, Cameron said, and failing to come to a complete stop for pedestrians at the crosswalk is a nonmoving infraction costing $114 and no points against one's license.
"When they see the students, they have to stop," Cameron said. "It's a new feature in that school zone that motorists won't be used to, so we want to make sure they're aware of that."
Al Toler, a senior project coordinator at Department of Transportation Services, said Deltona Elementary School also has seen traffic safety improvements.
Additional turn lanes are among the improvements, he said, and like Springstead the construction projects will be completed before school starts on Monday.
Ullven said he was responsible for the new school beacons installed at the elementary school. There are four flashing yield beacons in total, Ullven said: two facing the northbound direction of traffic, and two facing the southbound direction of traffic.