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Danger lurks where two streets meet

Marti Castrenze
[Times photo: Fraser Hale]
Marti Castrenze says the crooked corner is dangerous and needs improving. Himes has stop signs, but Interbay Boulevard does not. She lives at the intersection and witnesses accidents and near-misses.

By SUSAN THURSTON, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 6, 2002


The Interbay Boulevard-Himes Avenue intersection is a deadly accident waiting to happen, some nearby residents say.

Some people keep extra bags of mulch lying around in their yard.

Marti Castrenze keeps a roll of chain-link fence.

She never knows when a car will lose control and take out her fence. It has happened before.

Castrenze says the intersection of Interbay Boulevard and Himes Avenue is dangerous and needs improving. She sees accidents and near-misses every day from her roommate's house on the southeast corner.

"We used to sit in the yard and play tether ball and volleyball. We can't anymore," she said. "It's a doggone shame."

She says the problem has been around for 20 years but has worsened as more cars and people clog the roads. She has called everyone from Gov. Jeb Bush to her City Council representative, but has received little help.

Naturally, Castrenze can get pretty hot.

"I just go down the phone list and start calling people," said Castrenze, 47, who has the governor's phone number programmed on her cell phone. "It's frustrating."

Traffic planners say the intersection doesn't warrant a four-way stop or a stoplight. The two-way stop is sufficient, they say.

Castrenze says hogwash.

"Does it take someone to die?" she said.

The intersection has stop signs on Himes but not on Interbay. It is crooked, not on right angles.

"It's a hypnotic corner if you aren't paying attention," she said.

Mornings and afternoons are the worst. Three schools have bus stops nearby.

Ruth Ingraham, 84, can vouch for the traffic. She stood at the intersection for 11 years as a school crossing guard. She saw plenty of children nearly get hit.

One day, a car ran over her toes and then sped away.

"We certainly need something out there," she said.

The city of Tampa studied the intersection in September 2001 but found that the volume of traffic, speed and frequency of accidents did not warrant a four-way stop, said traffic engineer Debbie Harrington.

The intersection, though, is on the city's speed enforcement list for areas that need extra police patrols. The list has 260 trouble spots and is constantly growing.

"Yes, they have do have a problem," she said. "It's not at the top of the list, but it's on there."

Eventually, the city will meet with neighbors to discuss traffic calming devices, including speed tables or striping, Harrington said. In the meantime, police enforcement may have to suffice.

Castrenze says the neighborhood can't afford to wait.

Just this week an elderly couple was seriously hurt in a wreck at the corner.

"If some child gets hit by a car out there, I can't be responsible for my actions," said Castrenze, who works as a bug exterminator. "I'm fed up."

Over the years, she and her roommate, Crystal Gowing, have become unofficial "first responders" to accidents. They jump out of bed, call 911 and direct traffic until help arrives.

It's unnerving, she said.

Signs of wrecks offer regular reminders: bent fencing and poles; pieces of broken cars in the shoulder; and a palm tree charred in an auto fire. For Gowing's birthday, Castrenze replaced her mangled mailbox.

"I cringe at this intersection," she said. "It takes two people to mow the yard, one to run the mower and one to watch their back."

And, too often, someone to fix the fence.

-- Susan Thurston can be reached at 226-3394 or thurston@sptimes.com.

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