City strives to improve hazardous intersection
By MAUREEN BYRNE
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 30, 2001
SEMINOLE -- Acknowledging there are no legal grounds to challenge the county's refusal to do so, the city is going to improve a dangerous intersection.
Seminole has hired Tampa Bay Engineering to evaluate the Old Ridge Road and 102nd Avenue N intersection, where a woman was killed in a traffic accident in January.
"We'll do whatever is necessary to go forward with safety improvements at that location," City Manager Frank Edmunds said Thursday.
But residents won't see changes any time soon. It will be a few weeks before the engineering firm makes a recommendation to the city, Edmunds said.
After receiving advice from City Attorney John Elias, Seminole backed down from its original position that the county should fix the intersection.
Elias reviewed state statutes and then agreed with a county attorney's opinion: Although 102nd Avenue is a county road, it is Seminole's responsibility to make the necessary changes at the intersection because it is inside city limits.
State law requires counties to construct and maintain their own roadways, but municipalities are in charge of traffic-control devices such as signs, signals and markings.
That's not the way it's always been in Pinellas County, Elias said in a memo to Edmunds. "The county's current position that municipalities now have primary jurisdiction and responsibility is a clear departure from past practice," he wrote.
Based on the law, Elias said, the city could not successfully argue otherwise.
"It's confusing," acknowledged Keith Wicks, the county's public works director. "We would like to take the confusion out of it, though, because we're not serving the citizens when it looks like we're passing it back and forth. I do appreciate the city for stepping up to the plate and recognizing it as their responsibility."
The fatal accident at the intersection in January prompted county officials to redesign the location. The county said it would improve the intersection by installing a median to prevent motorists heading north or south on Old Ridge Road from making left turns onto 102nd Avenue.
Also, pavement markings and plastic posts would force motorists heading west on 102nd in the right-hand lane to turn at Old Ridge Road. Now, when westbound vehicles approach the intersection in the right lane, many of them abruptly change into the left lane, jamming traffic.
County employees delivered their plan to the city with a note saying that as soon as the City Council approved, work would begin.
Ten days later, though, Edmunds received an e-mail saying the city -- not the county -- was responsible for any changes at the intersection.
Meanwhile, residents have been waiting for something to happen at the intersection. They say it would only be a matter of time before another serious accident occurs there.
The crash in January killed Adeline Openlander of Largo. Another major accident there in December involved her stepgranddaughter, Melony Krusinski of Largo.
The city's decision "is good news," Openlander's son, Skip Bailey, said. "It really is good news."
"We're going to get something done," agreed his wife, Lynn Bailey. "That's the bottom line. Maybe it was being done wrong all these years, but the issue is something had to be done there."
- Staff writer Maureen Byrne can be reached at 445-4163 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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