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    County delays stoplight decision

    A county board wants further study after hearing appeals for a stoplight on Park Boulevard near Home Depot.

    By MAUREEN BYRNE

    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 15, 2001


    SEMINOLE -- Mamie Gustafson wanted to look at plants in the nursery at the Home Depot on Park Boulevard.

    After browsing through the nursery, she bought one plant and got into her car to head home.

    She never made it.

    As Mrs. Gustafson attempted to make a left turn into the median opening on busy Park Boulevard, a car traveling east slammed into her vehicle, pushing it into a nearby ditch.

    The Oct. 16 accident broke Mrs. Gustafson's jaw, pelvis, neck and four ribs. After spending four months in a hospital, the 88-year-old woman returned to her home in Seminole on Valentine's Day.

    "She made a mistake . . . and there is no allowing for mistakes at this intersection," said Sandy Holloway, Mrs. Gustafson's daughter told the Metropolitan Planning Organization on Wednesday. "I just appeal to you to please do something there."

    The MPO, the county's transportation planning board, was poised Wednesday to decide whether to approve a signal at the Home Depot entrance, which is just three-tenths of a mile east of the city's busiest intersection and has been the scene of seven serious accidents in the past year.

    And while that decision was delayed until April 11 to allow the MPO's Traffic Signal and Median Control Committee to study the issue further, several people voiced strong concerns about what they called a dangerous traffic problem.

    Home Depot's management urged action.

    "We have a commitment not only to our customers but to the community at large," said Marsha Ferguson, a spokeswoman for the home improvement retail chain.

    Store manager Linda White said she has seen many accidents since transferring to the store Oct. 8. She suggested lowering the speed on that segment of Park Boulevard and also pushed for the stoplight.

    Many of Home Depot's customers use a back entrance off 70th Avenue. There is a traffic signal at Seminole Boulevard and 70th Avenue, which is south of Park Boulevard.

    Doug Mullis, a member of MPO's signal committee, said he had several problems with the current stoplight request. The report did not recognize how close the signal light at Park and Seminole boulevards is to the proposed light, he said. And no effort had been made to synchronize the two signals, which would be only 1,200 feet from each other.

    "That hadn't been done, and we asked for that additional information," Mullis said.

    The traffic signal committee also noted that the number of crashes, especially rear ends, would increase dramatically with the installation of a stoplight.

    The committee asked the county's traffic engineering division to get information on how to coordinate the two signals; to review the planned intersection project at Park and Seminole boulevards; and to collect additional data, including how many motorists turn right from the store entrance and make a U-turn at the next median opening.

    A year before Home Depot opened, county planners and engineers said the roads could handle the extra traffic, especially if a stoplight was installed at the store entrance at 10550 Park Blvd.

    -- Staff writer Maureen Byrne can be reached at 445-4163 or at byrne@sptimes.com.

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