Racing vexes in Gandy area

Dr. Delay Navigating South Pinellas

By LORRIE LYKINS, Times Correspondent
Published September 23, 2007

Living in the Fourth Street/Gandy area is a bit of a drag for residents who prize boring stuff like peace and quiet, getting some sleep on the weekends and safe passage in and out of their neighborhood.

Late-night drag racing in the area is driving some folks crazy, and although the problem is not new, residents feel as though it has been going on forever with no end in sight.

A reader recently wrote: "This stretch of road, from the Gandy/Roosevelt/Fourth Street intersection down to the Howard Frankland Bridge turnoff, has become a speedway. My safety concern is not only personal, but for the numerous families with children who live in the area."

Residents describe cars regularly reaching speeds that appear to be well over 80 mph on Fourth Street N and organized drag racing on the weekends that starts on Friday and Saturday nights about midnight and goes until 2 or 3 a.m.

"Cars with amplified motors and mufflers meet near the 7-Eleven at 115th Avenue and Fourth Street and drag race down the stretch of road and turn around at the last U-turn before the Gandy bridge. They often use the 7-Eleven as a turnaround as well," a witness said.

The Pinellas County Sheriff"s Office said law enforcement is often stymied by an organized underground group determined to break the law and evade police.

"Part of what makes it difficult is that the racers use the same technology we have. They use lookouts and radios and cell phones to communicate," said Sgt. Jim Bordner of the Sheriff's Office.

"We have undercover people in the crowd with cameras, documenting the crowds that gather there and we sometimes catch the spectators and have issued citations, but the citations have been dismissed by traffic court judges." .

38th Avenue N

Solutions on way for dangerous crosswalk

Motorists who regularly traverse 38th Avenue N know that the curve east of Fourth Street N with Northeast Shopping Center on the south and Gold's Gym to the north can be treacherous.

It's even worse for pedestrians trying to cross the road safely because the crosswalk is on the sharp curve too.

A reader recently witnessed a near disaster when two runners narrowly missed being hit when a truck pulling into Northeast Shopping Center blocked visibility for westbound vehicles.

Although the runners had the right of way and were in the crosswalk, the cars couldn't see them. The reader suggested removing the crosswalk.

Mike Frederick, the city's manager of neighborhood transportation, says his department recently finished a road safety audit that identified issues and developed short-, medium- and long-range solutions.

"Simply removing the crosswalk does not address the fact that pedestrians are still wanting to cross the roadway at that location. So we are attempting to make those crosswalks as safe as possible through enforcement until the final solutions can be implemented," Frederick said.


Driveway soon will be limited to right turns

There's good news to report with our followup on the entrances to Tyrone Square Mall - the north side of the complex just north of 68th Street has two entrances close to each another.

One has a traffic signal; one doesn't. Readers wondered why the unprotected access was in use, especially because cars using it cross four lanes of heavy traffic on Tyrone Boulevard.

Happily, the city has made it a condition of future expansion for the mall's new movie theater complex to restrict outbound traffic from the driveway to right turns only.

Frederick said this should happen over the next few months and help improve traffic safety for everyone using this intersection.

Until next week, happy and safe motoring!

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