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Dissent won't stall traffic fix

Even though opinions are mixed over a traffic light at Estrella and MacDill, the city isn't giving up.

By RON MATUS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 19, 2002


It's a good thing the city wasn't looking for consensus.

More than 100 people at the Palma Ceia Golf & Country Club July 10 voiced opinions on a proposed traffic light at Estrella Street and MacDill Avenue, and on a sidewalk and speed tables that Tampa traffic engineers say should accompany it.

They were split on everything.

Some wanted the light. Some didn't.

Some liked the sidewalk and speed tables. Some didn't.

Some liked one or the other, but not all three.

William Porth, Tampa's neighborhood traffic coordinator, said the city isn't giving up.

"To the best of my knowledge, the light is going to happen," he said.

So it makes sense to calm the extra traffic that will use Estrella and Mississippi Avenue, he said.

For now, though, it's back to the drawing board.

The light fight has been simmering since at least 1995.

Porth said a signal is needed to slow traffic, reduce wrecks and allow drivers to more easily turn left on to MacDill from both Estrella and the country club across the street.

The club is willing to reconfigure its driveway so MacDill and Estrella would become a four-way intersection, Porth said.

Club members are among the light's biggest supporters.

"This has been needed for a long time," said Howard Garrett, a Davis Islands resident. Without it, "somebody is going to get killed," he said.

But some residents said the light might attract more traffic to their neighborhoods.

"With due respect to the country club . . . it's going to create more traffic down there," said Dave Olive, who lives on Aquilla Street, one block north of Estrella.

Some said the same of the speed tables.

One man said the more obstacles put up to deter speeders, the more likely speeders will pursue side streets.

The area is chock full of bicyclists, pedestrians and kids playing in the street. Now, he said, they'll be at more risk.

Yet some residents said change was needed.

Al Williams said many residents would love to walk to Howard Avenue for dinner, but it's dangerous on Mississippi, where motorists don't have to worry about the bricks that slow them on Estrella.

"It's Death Valley in there," he said.

Porth said the city will continue talking with homeowners on the north side of Estrella to see how many are open to the sidewalk idea.

So far, he said, about 50 percent of homeowners said okay. At the meeting, many who were reluctant said their homes are already too close to the street.

Porth also said the city would take another look at the speed tables, to see if there are better places to put them than those presented last week.

Another public meeting is a sure thing, but a date has not been set.

-- Writer Ron Matus can be reached at 226-3405 or matus@sptimes.com.

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