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Frequent crash site set to get a signal

Pleas for a traffic light at Spring Hill and Pinehurst drives are finally answered. Another signal goes to the Kenlake intersection.

By JENNIFER FARRELL

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 20, 2001


SPRING HILL -- The crashes come so often, Rachel Rodriguez has taken to calling the corner in front of her house "Heaven's Gate."

"I've seen six people die there already," she said Thursday, pointing through her living room window to the corner of Spring Hill Drive and middle Pinehurst Drive.

Since moving there in 1990, Rodriguez says, she's grown used to the sound of metal against metal and the roar of helicopters called to airlift accident victims to bay area hospitals.

"When they go, "Bam,' right away I grab the telephone," she said. "Most of the time I'm the one who calls 911."

But Rodriguez, a longtime Hernando County community activist, also contacted county officials.

In a bid to boost safety at the busy intersection, she rounded up a group of seniors in her neighborhood who said they were afraid to cross the street. They appeared before for the County Commission to plead for a traffic light.

Now, more than a year later, the signal is in place and should be activated within 30 days.

"It's there," said County Engineer and Public Works Director Charles Mixson. "It's coming."

Mixson said safety was one reason for the signal, but the decision to install it, along with another at the intersection of Spring Hill Drive and Kenlake Avenue, was also based on the sheer volume of traffic in the area.

He noted that congestion has increased significantly on Spring Hill Drive and the side streets that feed into it.

"There's so much traffic coming to those points," he said. "It's mainly put up for the convenience."

The idea is to stop traffic on Spring Hill Drive long enough to allow access for drivers going north and south on Pinehurst and Kenlake.

County Administrator Paul McIntosh said the intersections were not chosen arbitrarily, and the lights, which were budgeted to cost about $150,000 each, were designed to order.

"You don't just go out and buy a cookie cutter stoplight and put it in," he said. "When we checked traffic accidents and patterns, both of them justified signalization."

Rodriguez, who said 911 dispatchers have learned to recognize her voice, hopes she'll be able to cut back on emergency calls.

"I'm very glad," she said.

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