City Council opposes plan to widen 102nd Avenue N

Officials join residents in lobbying to leave the road alone.

By ANNE LINDBERG, Times Staff Writer
Published January 27, 2008

SEMINOLE - Opponents to the proposed widening of 102nd Avenue N have won a powerful ally - the Seminole City Council.

Council members agreed Tuesday that they oppose "wasting" $33-million on an "unnecessary project." They plan to make their opposition official at their next meeting in a resolution to the Pinellas County Commission.

"It defies logic in my mind why you would spend $33-million of taxpayers' money on something that's not necessary," said council member Dan Hester, who lives in the Thurston Groves neighborhood off 102nd.

"We all agree we don't need to spend $33-million to widen a road that doesn't need to be widened."

The resolution is expected to concede that 102nd does have some problems and may urge county commissioners to look for less expensive and less drastic ways to solve traffic problems along the road.

The council's unanimous agreement - except for member Peter Hofstra, who was absent Tuesday - came after a presentation by a citizens group that opposes the widening.

The group collected more than 700 signatures on petitions asking the county to find a less invasive way to fix a traffic problem that, members say, happens only twice a day during rush hours.

"Rather than putting a body cast on what amounts to a scratch, let's just approach it in a very logical and very cost effective way," said Marjorie Bulone, who has helped spearhead the protest drive. "Listen to what the residents are saying. We implore you to do that."

The group opposes the widening for several reasons, including the adverse effect they say it would have on the character of the neighborhood.

Seminole City Manager Frank Edmunds agreed that was a concern. "Clearly, I think there is reasonable concern that (it) would have a significant impact on the residents, whether they're city residents or county residents," Edmunds said.

Pinellas County Commissioner John Morroni, who represents the area, could not be reached for comment Friday. But, in the past, Morroni has said he does not favor the widening. The issue is expected to come before the County Commission on Feb. 26.

Pinellas traffic officials say the widening is essential because 102nd is substandard for the estimated 20,000 vehicles that travel the road every day.

But opponents say traffic has actually decreased on the dead-end road and will likely never greatly increase because the area is built out. They would like to have the county declare it a "constrained corridor," meaning it could never be upgraded to increase the capacity.

The proposal to widen, which is in the conceptual stage, would expand the two-lane road to one with four lanes, bike lanes on both sides, a median and sidewalks.

The project would be done in three phases.

The first phase would cost an estimated $18.6-million and begin in the spring of 2010. It would begin west of 125th Street N and extend to the east side of 113th Street, a distance of about 1.2 miles.

The second phase, which has not been scheduled, would cost an estimated $13.2-million and extend from west of 125th Street to Antilles Drive (137th Street N).

The third phase, which also has not been scheduled, would cost an estimated $1.2-million and would cover the road between Seminole Boulevard and 113th Street.

The County Commission must grant approval before the final design and work can begin.

Fast facts

Reasons not to widen 102nd Avenue N

Opponents of the proposed widening of 102nd Avenue N gave the Seminole City Council a packet of information that included 22 reasons why the project is a bad idea. The reasons were broken into three viewpoints: traffic management, quality of life and the citizens. Here are some of those reasons:

Traffic management objections

102nd is a dead-end road with no beach access.

Actual daily traffic decreased from 2006 to 2007.

Drainage issues from 131st to 137th streets make phase 2 impossible to do.

Quality of life objections

The neighborhood is residential.

The equestrian community would be eliminated because the widening would make it too dangerous to cross the road to get to the Walsingham horse park.

Noise levels would increase.

The area has a lot of recreation - parks, joggers, biking and hiking - that would become more dangerous because of increased traffic and speed.

Property values will decrease.

The citizens' perspective

Opposition to the project was running 7-1 at a public hearing held last year.

Adjacent homeowners associations have objections.

$33-million in tax dollars will be wasted when the problems can be fixed for much less money by using things such as traffic lights.