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Neighborhood Report

Help on way for tricky intersection

The city is acquiring land to add left-hand turn lanes at MacDill Avenue and Azeele Street, where about 30 accidents happen annually.

By RON MATUS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 10, 2003

Fifty years ago, the intersection of MacDill Avenue and Azeele Street was a laid-back suburban crossroads.

There wasn't much traffic and hardly any big trucks, said Josephine Mirabella Samuels, who has lived near the corner since 1952.

Then Tampa grew up.

Now "people just speed through here like a race track," Samuels said last week. "There's been so many accidents."

A fix is in sight.

In coming months, the city hopes to acquire strips of private land so it can add left-hand turn lanes to all four approaches. There are dozens of Tampa intersections with similar problems, but for MacDill and Azeele, the stars are lining up.

"We address them as we can," said city traffic engineer Jim Burnside.

Turn lanes might not slow the 30,000 cars that zip through every day. But they are expected to cut in half the 30-plus annual accidents.

"We're just trying to get the left turners out of the through lanes," Burnside said. "The people making left turns can see the gaps to make the turns. Their sight distance will be improved."

The city expects to begin construction this summer, and the work should take about six months, Burnside said. The timeline depends on how fast the city can strike deals with property owners.

Since the city began acquiring land a few years ago, it has settled on three parcels and is closing in on a fourth, said Joel Rinderle, a real estate contract specialist with the city. Another six parcels remain to be bought.

About 120 feet along each road is needed, up to 10 feet on both sides of Azeele and the east side of MacDill, Burnside said.

The city expects to begin negotiating with the remaining owners by the end of the month. If deals can't be worked out, the city will file suits to condemn the land.

MacDill and Azeele is just one of many intersections in South Tampa that need turn lanes. Planners marked it for improvements 30 years ago, but money has been tight, Burnside said.

Building the turn lanes will cost about $600,000; property acquisition another $500,000 to $1-million, he said. Gas taxes and the Community Investment Tax will pay for it.

The turn lanes won't be accompanied by new left-turn signals.

Jim Garciga, who owns a travel agency and a building at the corner, wonders if the turn lanes are enough. He hasn't sold any of his land to the city yet.

"What they should do before anything else is put patrols out here," Garciga said.

Samuels, who sold a strip of her land last year, is more hopeful. But then again, she said, "You won't know until it happens."

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

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