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2 traffic lights win support; 1 rejected

A Pinellas Park study backs lights for 126th and 118th avenues N, but rejects another for 124th Avenue N.

By ANNE LINDBERG

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 11, 2000


PINELLAS PARK -- After years of pleading and petitions, some businesses and residents may get traffic lights.

One signal, which would be at 126th Avenue N and 49th Street, already has the support of Pinellas Park officials who paid for a traffic study that showed a light was needed at that intersection.

It also has the approval of a traffic light subcommittee of the Metropolitan Planning Organization. The MPO is a regional transportation planning group.

All that's left is for the MPO to okay the installation.

The other signal would be on the western side of the Pinebrook subdivision at 118th Avenue N and Belcher Road.

A consultant hired by Pinellas Park says a signal is needed there because of the amount of traffic and number of accidents.

But the MPO's traffic light subcommittee was not so sure.

A light there would tie up traffic and be too close to a nearby signal, explained Pinellas Park Traffic Director Tom Nicholls in a memo to city officials.

Nicholls said Friday he does not agree with that conclusion and plans to ask the MPO on Wednesday to approve the installation of a traffic light there.

That's when the MPO next meets, at 1 p.m. in the Pinellas County Court House, 315 Court St., Clearwater. The meeting is open to the public.

A request for a third light just north of Pinebrook at 124th Avenue N and Belcher Road will go unfulfilled. A traffic consultant found the intersection did not meet the criteria for a signal.

The 126th Avenue intersection has long needed a light, if you talk to businesses and residents there. And Nicholls said the city has done several studies of that area, but it's never come up to the standards for a light.

Earlier this year, the Rally Stores, a convenience shop, at that intersection collected 359 signatures from customers who wanted a light. Another 17 businesses also wrote letters asking for a light there.

"Research conducted at the Pinellas Park Police Department shows that 68 traffic accidents have occurred at this intersection between September 1994 to September 1999," wrote Oscar Estrada in the letter from Rally Stores.

"This intersection is dangerous for all motorists and pedestrians, especially during peak morning and afternoon hours. Furthermore, police officers manage the intersection for four hours each workday, which is an ongoing police expense," Estrada wrote.

He concluded, "A traffic signal will improve the safety of travelers passing the intersection and it will lower the Pinellas Park Police Department's operating costs."

Pinellas Park decided to do another study to see if the businesses and residents were right. They were.

"It's built up so much, it does meet the warrants for signalization," Nicholls said.

The consultant also thought the 118th Avenue-Belcher intersection, which serves as the entrance to Pinebrook, needed a signal.

Sixteen traffic accidents happened between the beginning of 1996 and June 1999, the period studied. Most of those could have been prevented had there been a light at the intersection, the study concluded.

Since then, Nicholls said, there have been five more accidents at that intersection, all of which could have been prevented by a light.

All that, Nicholls said, means a light should go there. He hopes the MPO will agree.

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