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Growth spurt has drivers inching into traffic to see

By JEAN HELLER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 9, 2002

We haven't visited the subject of view obstruction lately, and we should. Now that we've had our spring spurt of plant growth, there probably are lots of streets around the county where sight lines are impaired by leafy greenery.

One such is on westbound Delmar Terrace. If you are trying to cross Sixth Street S to get to the entrance ramp to Interstate 175, new growth coming up from the roots of an otherwise dead tree of uncertain species (Jessie and I do traffic, not botany) force you to move all the way out into the northbound traffic lanes to see whether there is any oncoming southbound traffic.

This is generally not a good idea.

It would be much appreciated if the city could get out there with a sturdy pair of pruning shears.

* * *

Several people, including Nancy Sanford of St. Petersburg, have asked about the nasty mess that's been lingering around Shore Acres. There's a lot of excavation and mud and other niceties of life. Exactly what you want to see out the front window.

We are happy to report that this is a stormwater project designed to help alleviate the notorious flooding problems in that neighborhood.

We are sorry to report that the stormwater project will be followed in about six months by a program to rehab sewer lines to avoid backups in high water. So the area will remain torn up for quite a while yet, perhaps a year or more.

"The stormwater system work is contiguous, which limits the disruption to one area," said Lane Longley, St. Petersburg's wastewater manager. "The sewer work will be dotted around all over. We're trying to get the work done in a hurry. We've determined the best way to rehab each of the lines we need to fix. But there is no way to avoid disruptions. Some of the work will be in the streets and some along rights of way."

Coffee Pot Bayou and Snell Isle residents be forewarned: You're next.

* * *

Now here's a curiosity. If you drive from Bay Pines Boulevard to Madeira Beach, the signs will tell you that you are crossing the "Tom Stuart Causeway," also called on some maps the "Madeira Beach Causeway." But if you are down on the water beneath the span, the sign will tell you it is the "Welch Causeway."

How, we wondered, and why, does a single bridge have three names?

We can dismiss "Madeira Beach Causeway" as somebody's convenient shorthand -- somebody who probably wasn't sure whether Tom spelled his name as "Stuart" or "Stewart." But what's with Welch?

So we asked the state roadies, whose bridge it is.

Welch, they said, was the bridge's old name. And they didn't even know there was still a sign down on the water that hadn't been updated.

It will be shortly, they promise. They're ordering new signs even now in the name of consistency. The bridge will be named for Tom Stuart above and below in the near future.

Glad we got that cleared up.

* * *

We had an e-mail from a bus driver recently nominating a section of 28th Street S as an Eyeball Jiggler of the Week. When we drove through the area, we agreed.

Driving south on 28th Street, between the interstate overpass and 12th Avenue S, there is a trench across the road that serves no earthly purpose that we can determine. You won't even see it unless you're looking for it, and by the time it registers in your brain, it's also registering in your car and in your body.

To make matters worse, there's another one, nearly as bad, a block farther down.

One jiggler for each eye.

It was bad enough in a car. I can only imagine what it must feel like in a bus.


* * *

The state roadies have put up a big yellow YIELD sign now on the long lane onto southbound Interstate 275 from I-375 in downtown St. Petersburg. That entry lane used to be a through lane, but now it is a merge to the left.

It isn't any different from all the other interstate ramp lanes that merge into through traffic, but this one has a lot of people excited because it is new.

It doesn't much help anybody's mood that the motorists already on I-275 won't move over a lane to make the merge easier. Jessie and I got pushed all the way into the white striping (called the gore area ... and we don't even begin to want to know how it got that name) on Thursday morning. Eight or nine cars and two semis whizzed by without giving us room or time to merge.

One of the truck drivers even had the gall to blow his horn at us, and we were sitting still.

Where, we wail into the ether once again, are standards?

* * *

We're collecting Carbungles again, the things that other drivers do on the road that make your blood boil.

This week's comes from Lloyd Parry, and I suspect there are a lot of you who join him. Lloyd gets really ticked off at people who drive with music -- rap, heavy bass and hard rock -- turned up so loud that it rattles nearby car windows.

It doesn't bother us as much as it bothers Lloyd, although we were successful once in getting a teenager to turn it down. We rolled down the window and signaled to the young man that we wanted to talk. When he turned off the music long enough to hear what we had to say, we told him, "That's great music. Could you turn it up so we can all hear it?"

He might have turned it up again eventually, but not while we were within earshot.

We felt very smug.

* * *

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

The Federal Highway Administration has gone to the time and trouble to tell us that almost half of the 190-million licensed drivers in the United States in 2000 -- 94,828,953, to be exact -- were female.

But who's counting?

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

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