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Road work to slow traffic

Crews are expected to begin restriping First Avenues N and S today. When the work will conclude is unclear.

By JON WILSON

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 31, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- Motorists on two major roads in and out of downtown likely will encounter slowdowns east of 34th Street for the next several weeks.

City crews will begin restriping First Avenues N and S between 19th and 34th streets, reducing the four-lane thoroughfares to three lanes, painting in lines for parallel parking and adding bicycle lanes to both avenues.

Work is expected to start today or Thursday. It's not certain how long it will take.

"That's a good question," said Peter Shaw, the operations coordinator for transportation and parking.

"The variable is the grinding. We have to grind everything off," Shaw said, referring to scraping off the old lines.

"Because there's a pretty good volume on those roads, that always slows things down. We have great intent but sometimes physical restrictions get in the way of good intent."

Shaw said traffic probably will be funneled into two lanes while the work progresses block by block.

The project is part of the Grand Central business district redevelopment project. The goal is to establish an "urban village" of housing, shops and restaurants along the midtown corridor.

It includes Central Avenue and the First avenues between 19th and 34th streets. The three-laning project affects only that area.

The idea is to slow traffic on the avenues while making them easier and safer for pedestrians to cross.

"It's making it more user-friendly. And that's pedestrians and automobiles, too," Shaw said. "By narrowing the road, by taking away the lane, and by defining the parking, it will have a calming effect."

Crosswalks and neckouts are expected to be added later, said Kris Self, chairwoman of the Central Avenue Tomorrow task force, which is guiding the revival effort. She said the restriping still is not necessarily permanent.

"This is a long-term transition test, at least a one-year test," she said.

"It gives us a chance to test it through the quiet summer months, as well as through baseball season and the tourist season," Self said.

If the reconfiguration proves desirable, the neckouts and crosswalks would be added, she said.

At some point, officials will take traffic counts, Self said. Previous city staff reports have said the First avenues operate at 40 percent of their capacity.

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