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Signal gets one more shot at approval

The Metropolitan Planning Organization will look at installing a light at Crescent Oaks and East Lake.

By NICOLE JOHNSON
Published July 29, 2006


A community's push for a traffic signal at a busy intersection hit a road bump Tuesday but still has a chance of moving forward.

Pinellas County traffic engineers determined that a traffic signal was not warranted at Crescent Oaks Boulevard and East Lake Road. But instead of killing the issue, county commissioners voted to send it to the county's Metropolitan Planning Organization for consideration.

The move gives the traffic signal another chance of being approved.

The decision to move the matter to the MPO was made to accommodate proponents, County Administrator Steve Spratt said.

"There are a litany of outstanding issues that the community disagrees with," Spratt said. "The traffic committee could look at our analysis and figure out if they agree or not."

Hundreds of residents in the Crescent Oaks subdivision met in April with Commissioner Susan Latvala to lobby for a traffic signal at the intersection.

The residents use the intersection as their way out of the subdivision of more than 400 homes and onto East Lake Road. But because of the massive influx of motorists commuting from Pasco County to Pinellas County, the route has become increasingly dangerous, they said.

Specifically, residents said the problem occurs when drivers speed on East Lake Road trying to beat a light at Trinity Boulevard, which is just north of Crescent Oaks Boulevard, making it dangerous for residents exiting the subdivision.

It is estimated that more than 40,000 vehicles use this stretch of East Lake Road daily, according to a traffic study conducted by the county.

"I'm not sure why that amount of traffic doesn't warrant a traffic light," said Bob Loos, chairman of the subdivision's governmental relations committee. "But we recognize that as a problem that needs to be addressed."

The volume of cars isn't the only thing that qualifies an intersection for a traffic light, according to county and state guidelines. Engineers must also consider crash and fatality statistics, as well as pedestrian patterns.

Four crashes, which the county's study says may have been prevented with a traffic signal, were reported at Crescent Oaks Boulevard and East Lake Road in the past five years. That number is compared with the signalized intersection of East Lake and McMullen-Booth roads, which experiences 21 crashes per year, according to the county's report.

There have been no fatalities at the Crescent Oaks intersection. But residents said the reality is a different thing.

"We feel we're entitled to (a traffic signal), according to the guidelines for a traffic light," Loos said. "We think the MPO, when they see the numbers, will agree."

The MPO board is scheduled to hear the case at 1 p.m. Sept. 13 at the Pinellas County Courthouse, 315 Court St., Clearwater. The public will have an opportunity to speak about the issue at the meeting.

After the MPO makes its recommendation, the matter will go back to the County Commission for a final decision.