ST. PETE BEACH — The city’s Public Works department is studying the use of a colorization product in roadway asphalt to reduce the heat signature, so people don’t burn their bare feet and pets don’t risk seared paws.

“Here in Florida we’re talking about the journey across the hot black asphalt street after enjoying yourself on the beach. This issue knows no bounds, nobody gets a pass,” Public Works Director Mike Clarke told members of the Historic Preservation Board at a Nov. 3 meeting.

Clarke said more than 20 years ago, the Department of Energy commissioned some studies on the effects of urban heat islands and what could be done in the infrastructure world to reduce the heat signature. Reflectivity factors in colorized asphalt and pavement were evaluated.

He said Public Works staff is studying utilization of asphalt colorization along the entire stretch of Gulf Way from 1st to 22nd avenues, which is up for repaving. “As we approach that project, we’re having discussions on the staff side as to whether or not this would be a good place to try to reduce our heat signature by colorizing the asphalt that we lay down,” he said.

The surface of the asphalt can traditionally reach between 138 to 140 degrees. Colors being proposed would reduce that temperature into the high 80s, “so it is a significant drop,” Clarke said.

He added the Department of Energy study also drew the conclusion that “adjacent properties, structures that face this kind of heat reduction, also experience heat reduction reflectivity off of the face of their structures. They’ll see a reduction in their energy consumption.”

Two colors are being considered along Gulf Way — blue and white, one for parking areas and the other for the driving surface.

The Public Works director also told Historic Preservation Board members that the city is also proposing installation of a median island along Gulf Way between 8th and 9th avenues. It’s the only location along Gulf Way where the width of the road is in excess of 50 feet and a median would work.

 “That’s a lot of territory,” Clarke said. “It allows vehicles and pedestrians to mix up in ways that are really not that altogether safe.” He said the feature could serve as a “refuge” for pedestrians. Trees would be added to provide shade.

One historic preservation member noted if a raised median was installed, drivers could not make a U-turn in the area and large delivery trucks would be prevented from unloading on the street and making deliveries, which is common practice.

Clarke noted that one of the city’s survey contractors will stake out and survey Gulf Way.

Clarke said the funding philosophy behind the project is that “because Gulf Way is so homogeneous in its disrepair, and its condition, we wanted to propose we get from 1st Avenue and head north as far as well can go, realizing that we are not going to get a second chance at this for at least another 20 or 30 years.

“This is a one-time shot for us,” he said. “We go hot black asphalt or we do something different, and it takes us two years to get it done for the next 25 to enjoy it.”

The Historic Preservation Committee asked Clarke to return with more information when more of the Gulf Way plan is finalized.

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