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Sign doesn't tell whole story; there's a reason

By JEAN HELLER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 3, 2002

We learned something from the state roadies this week, and we thought we should pass it along.

We wrote recently about the signage for Exit 15 northbound on Interstate 275, and how it doesn't give us a clue that you can get to Tampa that way via the Gandy Bridge.

It tells motorists that this is the exit for Seminole and Pinellas Park, both of which are west of the interstate, but it doesn't recognize that there is anything worth pointing out east of the highway, including the Gandy Bridge. We figured it was an oversight.

We figured wrong. Yet again.

The intrepid Kris Carson, information maven for the roadies, sent us this explanation:

"We try to give motorists the most direct route to a given destination. Since I-275 passes directly through the city of Tampa, that is the best route for the out-of-towner.

"Also, the major traffic generators, Busch Gardens, Tampa International Airport, the University of South Florida, all have signing on I-275 to aid the motorist in finding these destinations. If we signed "Tampa' on northbound I-275 at Gandy Boulevard, think of all the complaints we would receive from motorists seeking these destinations as to why they were directed down Gandy Boulevard leading to South Tampa.

"We are also limited in the number of destinations we can sign at any one interchange to a maximum of four. The destinations present at this exit are Pinellas Park, Seminole, Gandy Boulevard and Indian Shores.

"Most people don't realize that signing on our highways is intended to be used in conjunction with the official Florida State map. If someone is seeking the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway, or a destination in South Tampa, we assume that they can view a map and deduce that if traveling on northbound I-275, taking the Gandy Boulevard exit would be advised.

"Also, since Gandy Boulevard is signed at this interchange, some motorists may surmise that they can reach the Gandy Bridge even without the advantage of having a map. The four destinations signed at this interchange were considered as those destinations that would benefit the largest number of motorists unfamiliar with this area."

As loath as we are ever to admit that the bureaucrats have a good point, Kris seems to have several good ones.

We also complained recently about how difficult it is, while traveling east on Gandy Boulevard, to read the signs for the Crosstown because they are so faded. The state roadies gave us an explanation for this, as well.

The Crosstown, it seems, is getting a new route marker logo, which we consider good news since we didn't care much for the old one even when it wasn't faded. Since the switch isn't far off, the faded signs will have to do until the new ones are installed.

This also is reasonable, we think. Why spend money on a bunch of new stuff you're just going to throw away in a few months?

Jessie likes it when government is thrifty.

One more item of old business to clean up. It only goes to prove that if we have a good idea, somebody has probably had it before.

Jessie has had a bunch of ex-cops on her tail since we mentioned how it would be a good idea for drivers to turn on their headlights when it is rainy enough to require wipers. When you reach for one, reach for the other.

First we heard from Homer Lee of Treasure Island, a former member of the California Highway Patrol.

Then we heard from Sherman Bywater of Feather Sound, a former deputy sheriff, though he didn't say from where.

Then we heard from several others without law enforcement backgrounds.

What they all had to say is that "wipers on, lights on" is the law in Florida. It isn't an option. If you have to turn on your wipers, you are required to turn on your lights.

We are presuming here -- and we know that presumption is always dangerous -- that this law does not include bright sunny days where you turn on the wipers only in conjunction with the windshield washers in an effort to dismiss love bugs and other unwanted smudges.

Anyhow, now you know.

Good news in the division of Eyeball Jigglers of the Week.

The state roadies tell us they are aware of the EJW we pointed out at the entrance ramp to northbound I-275 from 54th Avenue N.

And even as we speak, they are working on a contract to mill and resurface the offending washboard roadway.

And we thank them.

And now, Dr. Delay's Terrible Traffic Tidbit of the week.

With all the road construction going on around here, some perspective. In preparation for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, interstate construction in Utah involved at least 142 bridges, 18 miles of highway, eight interchanges with urban crossroads and three major junctions with other interstates.

We are not alone.

-- Dr. Delay can be reached by e-mail at docdelay@sptimes.com, by fax at (727) 893-8675 or by mail at 490 First Ave., S, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.

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