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Private businesses have a stake in city road work

By JEAN HELLER

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 25, 2001


Most of you who drive around St. Petersburg are familiar with all the street renovation that's been going on in the Bayboro District. Landscaping. Neckouts (those bulges in the curbs that are supposed to make traffic feel squeezed and therefore, maybe, slow it down), brick work and general prettying up.

But Edith Duke Kautsky of Gulfport noticed, and not without some concern, we might add, that the intersection of Seventh Street at Sixth Avenue S has some special concrete work that looks remarkably like the Bayfront Medical Center's logo.

And since that intersection is right in front of the entrance to the hospital, we chose to believe that it probably was the Bayfront logo.

If it is the Bayfront logo, we all wondered, who paid to put it in the middle of the intersection of two city streets?

We turned to the city's street maven, Tom Gibson, who had the info at his fingertips. First, it is the Bayfront logo. Second, it cost $41,000 to put it there. Third, the hospital paid for it.

All the street work down there, Tom told us, was done under a cooperative agreement with the city, the University of South Florida, Bayfront Medical Center, All Children's Hospital, Florida Progress and the Poynter Institute.

Jessie thought you would want to know.

* * *

It was with some relief last week that we saw that the new electronic information signs along I-275 and I-175 were displaying all the letters of the alphabet, A through Z, as well as all 10 numbers.

We had teased the city last week about how the signs had been displaying nothing but full screens of As, Bs and Cs. Seeing all the letters and numbers first thing Monday morning made us think maybe the city was getting a little back at our expense. Sort of a "So there!" directed at Jessie and me.

If so, we noticed.

Thank you.

* * *

So, some of you are bewildered and concerned about conditions where westbound Pinellas Bayway drivers turn left into Eckerd College through eastbound Bayway traffic.

Jessie and I went out to take a look and spent more than an hour parked off the road, watching people making that left turn during a morning rush. It was not the most scintillating event of our lives, though Jessie perked up a lot when a basset hound walked by.

It is a hairy traffic deal. We didn't see any near-collisions, but we did see some drivers make turns that made us glad we weren't in their vehicles. We could see how a left-turn signal might make life easier along that stretch.

So we asked the state roadies about it, since the Bayway is a state-maintained road. We were told that this very precise intersection has been studied several times in the past, and at those times did not warrant a traffic light (accident numbers and turning volume were not deemed high enough).

But, the state roadies told us, they are now looking at it again. They are pulling accident records, counting left-turners and putting it all under a microscope.

They should be ready to give a signal the thumbs-up or thumbs-down in about six weeks.

Stay tuned.

* * *

We know how much you all love the concrete replacement program on I-275 between 26th and 54th avenues S. Now there will be more to love.

The exit ramp from northbound I-275 to 26th Avenue S will be closed to all traffic from late tonight to 7 a.m. Friday. Watch for signs detailing the detour route for this ramp closure.

And remember, this will be over and smoothed out soon.

* * *

We know you've been waiting all day for the Eyeball Jiggler of the Week, and we don't want to keep you waiting even a tiny little second longer.

The latest EJW is the entire intersection -- yes, the entire intersection -- of Central and Pasadena Avenues. Have you been over that pavement -- and we use the term, pavement, loosely? As we traversed it, Jessie looked at me in horror and made a dive for the floor of the back seat. I wanted to join her.

Way back in the last century, the summer of 1997 to be precise, the county repaved Central Avenue from 58th Street to Pasadena (the county, not the city, because Central Avenue also serves as County Road 150). The intersection was not in great condition even back then, but it was not repaved. And it's in even worse shape now. It has become a great place for testing shock absorbers (assuming your car has shock absorbers).

We asked the county engineers if there were plans to repave the intersection any time soon.

We are sorry to report that they said there are no plans to do that at this time.

Sigh.

* * *

Dr. Delay's Terrible Traffic Tidbits of the Week:

The fatality rate for motorcyclists nationwide is 3.3 times the fatality rate for passenger car occupants. Sheesh!

Here's one to curl your toes: Of the nearly 600,000 bridges on all roads nationwide, about 29 percent were found to be structurally or functionally deficient in 1999. Doing quick math in her head, Jessie figured out that would be 174,000 bridges with defects. Give or take a bridge.

But this will make you feel better. In 1990, 42 percent of all bridges were deficient.

I don't think we want to drive anywhere any more.

- Dr. Delay can be reached by e-mail at docdelay@sptimes.com, by fax at (727) 893-8675 or by snail mail at 490 First Ave., S, St. Petersburg 33701.

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