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Plans to slow traffic could speed up

Clearwater is expected to okay measures for a neighborhood where residents plead for relief.

By MIKE DONILA, Times Staff Writer
Published August 14, 2007


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Plans to slow down traffic in an east Clearwater neighborhood could come a lot sooner than expected.

The City Council will hold a public hearing tonight about whether to fast-track a number of traffic-calming measures in several neighborhoods.

Officials are also expected to sign off on a $34,000 plan that would provide some temporary relief for residents in the Morningside neighborhood, in the form of six speed tables that would encourage drivers to slow down.

The interim plan comes almost two months after two men were killed when their speeding car smashed into an oak tree along Stewart Boulevard.

Since then, residents in the 688-home Morningside-Meadows neighborhood have pleaded with city leaders to fast-track a long-planned traffic-calming project.

Residents say motorists frequently race through the neighborhood to avoid traffic on U.S. 19 or Belcher Road. And it's only a matter of time, they say, before a child gets hit by an out-of-control car.

"I've always been an enormous proponent of traffic calming because if you can't feel safe in your own neighborhood streets, then that deteriorates the quality of life where you live," Mayor Frank Hibbard said. "You need to be able to feel that your kids and your pets are safe and that peace can be maintained."

If approved as expected, the speed tables, which work much like speed humps but are broader and lower, will probably be installed in the upcoming weeks.

Meantime, the City Council is expected to talk tonight about fast-tracking plans to install permanent traffic-calming devices in the city's Wood Valley neighborhood, as well as Morningside.

If approved, it would take designers about seven months to create a plan for Wood Valley and another six months to construct it. It would take designers about eight months to devise a plan for Morningside and another 10 months to install it.

Initially, construction wasn't expected to start in Wood Valley until late 2008 and Morningside until early 2009.

"It's long overdue and we're grateful the city listened," said Morningside resident John Quattrocki, 48, who helped champion the neighborhood's efforts to accelerate the programs. "It's a life-safety issue, it truly is. We sit as residents watching cars zip through and it happens all the time. During the week, on Sunday and Saturday mornings, and whenever you least expect it."

In 2000, Clearwater officials targeted eight neighborhoods, based on crash rates, for traffic-calming measures. Residents met with city officials to come up with ideas to slow down motorists and stop cut-through traffic.

The residents then needed 65 percent of the neighborhood to sign off on the plan.

The city set its priorities based on the number of wrecks. Money for the projects comes from a number of sources, such as budget reserves and Penny for Pinellas sales tax.

The city finished the Grandview Terrace project in 2005, which included a roundabout, minicircles and medians. It's wrapping up work in North Greenwood, and another project in the Skycrest neighborhood is set to start in the next few months.

The projects, on average, cost about $2-million. City officials have not discussed accelerating the schedule for traffic-calming in two neighborhoods, Greenlea-Otten and Hillcrest, which are located behind Morningside.

Fast Facts:

Come to City Hall or view on the Web

The Clearwater City Council will have its regular meeting at 6 tonight at City Hall, 112 S Osceola Ave. To view a live Web stream of the meeting, visit www.myclearwater.com/gov/index.asp. From there, click on the links to streaming video.

[Last modified August 13, 2007, 22:10:15]


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