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Synchronizing not simple

Dr. Delay Navigating South Pinellas

By LORRIE LYKINS, Times Correspondent
Published September 30, 2007


Sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic can evoke all sorts of daydreaming. The Doc's favorite commuting fantasy is imagining the trek to work behind the wheel of the one and only vehicle on the road.

Unencumbered by fellow-commuters, the Buick sails along with no speed limit and perfect traffic signal synchronization, yes, so flawless that I have no reason to stop unless, say, I might hanker for a latte.

Some readers may share my wishful daydream about being queen or king of the road. Other, more pragmatic, folks just want the danged traffic lights to be synchronized.

Reader David Carr is one of the latter. He wrote: "Dear Dr. Delay, I've noticed increasing problems with the timing of lights on one-way streets in St. Petersburg.

"Staying at the speed limit ensures that you will miss the lights, but exceeding the speed limit - sometimes substantially - means making them. Under Option 1, drivers waste fuel waiting for the light to change.

"With Option 2, they are risking not only tickets but also accidents. Surely the traffic department can do better than this."

Carr said First avenues N and S drive him crazy as does Third Street from Fifth Avenue N to Fifth Avenue S, which usually requires him to stop three times even though he is driving at the posted speed limit.

The Doc agrees that it stands to reason that for those of us who actually do observe the posted speed limits, the expectation is that we will be rewarded with synchronized lights.

Bill Foster, the city's traffic signal coordinator, says in a perfect world all traffic lights would be synchronized always, but it's just not that simple, mostly because to accommodate the north-south flow of traffic, east-west traffic is affected, and vice versa.

The timing of the traffic signals in the central business district, as well as First avenues N and S as far west as 58th Street, are synchronized as a single network, Foster says.

"Throughout the years we've fine-tuned this network to provide a balanced system that provides synchronization to the majority of motorists. The timing of the intersections is all interrelated. It is physically impossible because of the spacing in a grid network to receive nothing but green lights in all directions on every street."

keene and druid roads

Money holds up arrows

Commuters heading into north county may have noticed the interminable traffic delay at Keene and Druid roads in Clearwater.

This is caused by the lack of turn arrows on the traffic signals for cars turning north or south onto Keene from Druid, according to reader Fred Gurt-man, who wrote that traffic trying to get into Clearwater High stacks up.

Cory Martens, Clearwater's signal system supervisor, says the intersection of Druid and Keene has been evaluated for turn arrows in the past and found to warrant signals, but there are some snags.

The existing wire structure was found inadequate to physically support the addition of turn arrows. Replacing the wire with a mast arm signal that can support the weight of the turn arrows will cost about $200,000. But, Martens said, "Given the current budgetary conditions, a time frame for obtaining this funding is uncertain."

Safe kids are walk's aim

One of the biggest challenges for kids is getting to and from school safely each day - pedestrian injuries are the second leading cause of accidental injury-related deaths among children ages 5 to 14. That's why the Suncoast Safe Kids Coalition at All Children's Hospital will sponsor the 2007 Walk to School: Walk This Way event on Oct. 3.

The event promotes safety and concern for the environment as students walk to school accompanied by parents and adults who teach them pedestrian safety and examine potential traffic dangers surrounding their schools. For a list of participating schools and walk locations, contact Safe Kids coordinator Jean Shoemaker at 767-8581.

Until next week, happy and safe motoring!

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

[Last modified September 30, 2007, 01:16:19]

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