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Watch out for trucks that don't secure loads

By JEAN HELLER

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 4, 2001


Itried to get Jessie to go chew on a shoe while we discussed the following item -- it upsets her so much -- but she decided to stay and tough it out.

Last Wednesday, I covered a frightening accident on Interstate 275. A truck hauling enormous slabs of old concrete roadway hit a bump and threw off one of the slabs. It hit the highway and shattered into 15 to 20 pieces ranging in size from baseballs to boulders.

The incident occurred in the northbound lanes just north of the 54th Avenue N exits.

Bouncing concrete hit five cars -- one pickup was bowled over onto its roof in the median -- and three people wound up going to the hospital.

The slabs were standing on end, leaning slightly toward the cab of the hauler, and they were not secured in any way.

So, when the truck was

jostled . . .

Jessie and I subsequently saw several ourselves. None of them had their loads secured

This is absolutely illegal. The state trooper who investigated the I-275 accident said he would cite the truck driver for failure to secure a load.

So my question is, if several people who work for the Times have noticed trucks hauling old concrete illegally, why haven't the police and the Florida Highway Patrol? Why isn't somebody pulling these guys over and ticketing them and preventing them from continuing their trips until the loads are tied down?

This can't be rocket science. Trucking companies manage to find ways to secure great loads of steel on the beds of 18-wheelers. Securing concrete slabs can't be any more difficult.

To add insult to injury, we learned that the trucks belong to subcontractors working on the I-275 concrete replacement job, a Florida Department of Transportation project. The people violating the law are working for our state roadies.

Marian Psion, spokeswoman for the FDOT, confirmed that the truck involved in last week's accident belonged to a subcontractor on the slab replacement project.

Psion said that after we brought the matter to her attention, she told the department's division of motor vehicle compliance and the project director in the hopes of correcting the problem. Meanwhile, the rest of us on the road will just have to be careful. Slab replacement is going to be with us for a while. Though it is nearing completion in the southern Pinellas area, it is about to begin where construction is under way between Gandy and Roosevelt boulevards.

Until the FDOT or some police agency catches up with these haulers and forces them to comply with the law, everyone in their vicinity is in danger. If you see a slab hauler and the concrete pieces are not secure, get away from it. Get off the interstate and use local streets if you have to.

And if you have a cell phone, you might call *FHP and report it. Be sure to note where you saw the truck and its direction and approximate speed. If you can get a license number or a company name off the cab, that's even better.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled broadcast.

* * *

A south Pinellas reader prevailed on the city several years ago to build speed plateaus on 70th Avenue S.

While they haven't always slowed traffic, she told us, they have reduced cut-through traffic, and that's a good thing. Then, during construction on Pinellas Point Drive, city buses were rerouted down her street. And ever since, the plateaus haven't felt as high as they once did.

Is it possible that the heavy buses could have flattened them somewhat?

Jessie thought she knew the answer, but sometimes I think Jessie doesn't know as much as she claims. So we went to Mike Connors, engineering poobah for the city of St. Petersburg, and asked him.

"The plateaus and humps are installed over existing pavement in two lifts," Mike told us. "If the plateau is 4 inches high, it is installed in two layers, each 2 inches thick. "If any settlement occurred due to wheel loads, you would see it in the path the wheels follow over the hump or plateau. There would be wheel ruts. The entire hump or plateau compressing is highly unlikely unless the material under the existing road gave way, which is also highly unlikely."

So I guess the short answer is: Probably not.

* * *

Parking alert!!!!

Phil Oropesa, St. Petersburg's Parking Guy, tells us that the mayor's office has received a couple of requests to change parking limitations in two places downtown. The first was from the Beach Drive Merchants Association. Two-hour parking is only in effect Monday through Friday. Evenings and weekends, parking is unlimited.

Visitors to BayWalk apparently are hogging those spaces, creating very little turnover. So within the next 30 days the city will impose 90-minute parking from 8 a.m. to midnight seven days a week from Fifth Avenue N to Central Avenue.

And on Fourth Avenue S between First and Fifth streets, where parking now is unlimited, the city will impose a two-hour

limit.

And now -- drumroll please, Jessie -- the Eyeball Jiggler of the Week. There is a big chunk of concrete chipped out of the center lane of northbound I-275 just south of the 31st Street S exit. Beware or be jostled. This is probably a section that will be replaced. When it is hauled off, with any luck, it will be firmly secured on the truck

- 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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