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New traffic light pops up at busy road crossing

The four-way stop at Interbay Boulevard and Manhattan Avenue houses the area's first traffic signal.

By RON MATUS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 29, 2002

It doesn't have a catchy name like Malfunction Junction. But the intersection of Interbay Boulevard and Manhattan Avenue offers Port Tampa residents their own daily traffic snarl.

At morning rush hour, motorists line up for blocks, waiting anxiously to punch through the four-way stop.

"It's a choke point," said Sammy Graham, Port Tampa's mail carrier.

If so, the city is applying the Heimlich maneuver. Port Tampa's first traffic light was installed at the intersection last week and should be operational within days. City officials call it a temporary fix that likely will become permanent.

"Once you put in a signal, it's hard to take them out," said city traffic engineer Jim Burnside.

The immediate problem is road construction on West Shore Boulevard, which will divert traffic to Interbay Boulevard. Work begins in January and will last about 18 months.

At the same time, the intersection has hovered for years at the traffic threshold the city uses to help determine when lights are needed. Port Tampa's growth spurt guarantees more cars.

"It needs to be done," said resident Bob Jones.

Jones said he and his family avoid driving in the morning so they won't have to face the intersection.

Too many people zip through when it's not their turn, leading to road-rage confrontations, he said. Jones admitted to honking a few times -- and getting an obscene gesture in return.

"I don't know why people don't understand what a four-way stop is," he said.

About 10,000 cars a day move through the intersection, according to the city. Up to 2,000 more are expected once work starts along West Shore to add a third lane between Gandy Boulevard and Prescott Street.

At times, the road will be closed completely north to Gandy. But most of the time, it will be open for nontruck traffic. Big trucks will use Interbay to get to and from Dale Mabry Highway.

The new signals and poles cost about $18,000.

To accommodate the new light, turn lanes from Manhattan to Interbay also are likely.

-- Ron Matus can be reached at 226-3405 or .

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