Tyrone-Tarpon trek is smooth, scenic

Dr. Delay Navigating South Pinellas

By LORRIE LYKINS, Times Correspondent
Published September 2, 2007

Officials from Pinellas County and Tarpon Springs teamed up last week to issue a media alert celebrating the completion of a $12.5-million north county road project touted to have a south county connection.

A 2-mile stretch has been added to Belcher Road, connecting Klosterman Road at the Tarpon Springs city line to Alderman Road in Palm Harbor. The project was funded by Penny for Pinellas and a state grant.

In an announcement heralding the official opening of the new road, the county refers to the corridor as an "extension that allows motorists to travel a 30-mile direct route from Tarpon Springs to Tyrone Boulevard in St. Petersburg."

The Doc fired up the Buick to test the trek from Tyrone to Tarpon last week and found the ride to be pretty smooth. But finding the starting line from the south end of the route wasn't as easy as the county's news release suggested.

There are no signs on Tyrone Boulevard directing motorists to Belcher Road or suggesting that a direct route to Tarpon Springs is nigh, so that was a disappointing way to begin the trip.

First, we had to get on 71st Street N, which snakes under an east/west flyover next to Tyrone Mall because Belcher Road doesn't technically connect to Tyrone. Belcher ends at Park Boulevard in Pinellas Park. Once southbound traffic crosses Park, Belcher becomes 71st Street, which leads to Tyrone Boulevard.

Coming from the west, we did a U-turn on Tyrone Boulevard at the intersection of 68th Street N and got onto the frontage road best known for its entrance to Hooters, which feeds into 71st. We set the trip odometer at zero and started the stopwatch at 3:15 p.m.

We made it from St. Petersburg 71st Street N through Pinellas Park and into Largo in record time, arriving at the stop light at East Bay Drive at 3:25 p.m. The first bottleneck didn't appear until we reached Gulf-to-Bay in Clearwater and had to sit through two full cycles of the traffic signal before pressing northward.

We made Sunset Point Road at 3:40 p.m. and crossed into Dunedin five minutes later. Once we got through the Countryside area, the ride became really pleasant; Belcher Road north of Curlew offers beautiful mature shade trees, nicely landscaped medians and slightly sloping terrain, giving one the brief illusion of rolling hills.

The route is largely residential with a welcome dearth of fast-food joints and convenience stores. The average posted speed limit is 45 mph. We didn't notice any blatant speeding or tailgating, which was a pleasant surprise. The traffic was light, with the exception of the Clearwater leg of the trip.

We hit Klosterman Road and the southern tip of Tarpon Springs at 4 p.m. on the nose. Six municipalities in 45 minutes is making pretty good time. But the curious thing is that the 30-mile trip only racked up 24 miles on the odometer. And when we drove up to a "no outlet" sign a few blocks north of Klosterman before turning around to head south again, there was no sign to be seen reading "Tyrone Boulevard 30 miles." Bummer.

Labor day

Be informed before joining holiday hordes

AAA estimates that 34.6-million Americans will be on the road during the Labor Day holiday weekend, which ends at midnight Monday. Remember that real-time information on interstate highway traffic conditions can be accessed statewide in Florida by dialing 511 or online at FL511.com. The system also provides information on evacuation routes, toll suspensions, and bridge and road closures when hurricanes prompt emergency evacuations.

Until next week, happy and safe motoring!

Share your traffic concerns, comments and questions with Dr. Delay via e-mail at docdelay@yahoo.com.