June 01--FORT LAUDERDALE -- An intersection on the city's premier street got a paint job Saturday intended to slow traffic and help build a neighborhood identity.
A team of about 30 volunteers transformed East Las Olas Boulevard and Southeast First Avenue with giant, vibrant ribbons of color painted on the pavement curb to curb.
Two more Las Olas intersections will get the same treatment during the next three months.
Fort Lauderdale officials say the "Connecting the Blocks" project is part of their ongoing efforts to create a safer atmosphere for bicyclists and pedestrians while "calming" traffic.
Painted intersections can be found in cities throughout the country from New Orleans to Minneapolis to Portland, Ore., which has about 40 of them.
In other areas where intersections have been painted, planners say drivers approach and travel through the intersections more cautiously because of the designs, which also provide an enhanced sense of community. Fort Lauderdale officials are hoping for the same result.
"These street canvasses give a community a sense of place through design that reflects the character of the area," said city spokeswoman Monique Damiano.
"They also provide traffic calming through a colorful, visual art display and safer pedestrian experiences through well-marked crosswalks incorporated into the art design." she added.
Fort Lauderdale selected Florida-based artist Cecilia Lueza to design the murals and each intersection will feature a different pattern but a cohesive design that ties them together. Lueza recently designed a pair of colorful sculptures that will be on display at the intersection of Sample Road and University Drive in Coral Springs through mid-July.
"The designs were inspired by the diversity and dynamics of urban life in Fort Lauderdale. Each design can be linked to (optical art) with the application of bright colored lines that, at a visual level, produce a sensation of movement," Lueza wrote in a statement to the city about her designs. "The purpose of the artwork is to capture the identity of the area, its cultural life, architectural sophistication, and ethnic diversity in an abstract manner."
Las Olas and Southeast Second Avenue is set to be painted on June 21 followed by the busy Southeast Third Avenue intersection on August 9.
Fort Lauderdale has allocated about $500,000 for pedestrian safety projects downtown. The street mural painted Saturday cost about $42,000.
The water-based paint, which is designed for roads and to hold up to traffic, is expected to last three to five years.
The tri-county area -- Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties -- was cited last month as the fourth most deadly for pedestrians in a report by the National Complete Streets Coalition.
But earlier in the year, the same organization ranked Fort Lauderdale third in the U.S. for the pedestrian-focused policies the city approved last September. Fort Lauderdale was the only city in Florida to make the list.
Last month, the city activated the first flashing crosswalk in Broward County at Las Olas and Southeast 11th Avenue. The $50,000 strobe-like path and flashing yellow LED lights embedded in the pavement light up when the curbside button is pressed by a pedestrian.
email@example.com, 954-356-4155, Twitter @MikeTurnpike, Facebook at SunSentinel.com/concreteideas
(c)2014 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services