Brevard County crosswalk controversy affects Florida Tech University

Florida Tech’s main entrance on University Boulevard is bustling.

Students are constantly crossing the street and drivers know to look for them.

But this week, something caught our attention and got us asking questions: Why do the crosswalk lights have bags over them?

We learned it's the same style of lights as the crosswalk where Sophia Nelson, 12, was struck and killed in Satellite Beach just before Christmas. 

Her death and two other deadly accidents motivated county commissioners to send a letter to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and state leaders asking for a redesign or removal of the 18 crosswalks in Brevard County that have the same technology.

County leaders say drivers and walkers are confused by the flashing lights. They say a solid red light would be better.

But, the county transportation authority says more education is needed. 

Before that debate heated up back in the fall, Florida Tech began an initiative to make the campus safer. The university upgraded the crosswalk.

But then in December, the City of Melbourne told Florida Tech to bag up the lights. 

Emails obtained by FOX 35 News show that the city told Florida Tech that the university had not obtained the proper permits. 

Furthermore, the crosswalk components were improperly installed. The city says parts of the crosswalk is not in compliance with city, state and federal safety requirements.  

Kiana Zanganeh wondered why the lights were bagged up when she returned from winter break.

"I know they worked for a little while because you could see the lights. I don’t know why they put the tape back on. It’s kind of ironic that something that’s supposed to be helping students isn’t working," Zanganeh said.

County leaders tell FOX 35 News if and when Florida Tech gets the right permits and makes the necessary changes as directed by Melbourne, it could be a moot point if FDOT then overhauls the crosswalks and reprograms them to have solid red lights. 

Here’s Florida Tech’s response:

"Florida Tech’s crosswalk improvement is part of a broader pedestrian safety program along West University Boulevard that has been ongoing for the last two years. Florida Tech undertook this program in collaboration with the City of Melbourne. The new crosswalk lighting system was installed in early December and tested until Dec. 19 when Melbourne officials advised that additional conditions would need to be met before use could continue. Florida Tech is reviewing these conditions in detail as the university continues to work closely with the city, Student Government Association and university engineering and facilities teams to ensure the highest levels of safety are available for the protection of the campus community."

Florida Tech isn’t alone in this. There are 10 other locations in Brevard County where the controversial crosswalks are being installed or going through the permit process.