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Speed limit may rise along East Lake Road

A county traffic study recommends the limit should be 50 mph for a portion of the road.

By ROBERT FARLEY

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 13, 2000


EAST LAKE -- It may soon be legal for drivers to lean a little harder on the accelerator along nearly five miles of East Lake Road.

Pinellas County commissioners this morning will consider a recommendation from their staff to raise the speed limit from 45 mph to 50 mph on East Lake Road between Keystone Road and the bridge over Brooker Creek, just north of Tampa Road.

Apparently, many drivers do so already.

A county traffic study performed on Oct. 19 found that 15 percent of cars and trucks in each direction were traveling at least 57 mph.

Pinellas County uses federal traffic guidelines to set speed limits. Those guidelines take into consideration how fast cars already travel on a road and they generally set speed limits at the maximum speed measured for 85 percent of the cars in the sample.

The recommendation for the 50 mph speed limit probably was influenced by the number of driveway connections along that stretch of East Lake Road, said John Amiro, an engineering specialist with the county public works department.

Amiro said speed studies often are commissioned after extensive road projects are completed, such as the resurfacing of East Lake Road last year. In addition, he said, county workers noted that the speed limit fluctuated from 50 mph south of the Brooker Creek bridge to 45 mph from the creek to Keystone Road to 55 mph north of Keystone.

The 55 mph speed limit north of Keystone makes sense, Amiro said, because there is sparse development and few driveways along that stretch, but it is probably not appropriate south of Keystone.

Often, Amiro said, a higher speed limit actually will make a road safer. If the limit is set at a speed that is more comfortable for drivers, he said, there are fewer lane changes. That translates to fewer side-swipe accidents.

The county's speed study was conducted on a Tuesday in October from 10:31 a.m. to 11:12 a.m., said Wanda Reese, an engineer in the public-works department. The weather during the study was good.

In the past, some East Lake residents have argued the 45 mph limit is safer, but that opinion is not universal.

Paul Miller, 73, of East Lake is glad to see the speed limit may be raised, but he thinks county officials aren't going high enough.

"I think 55 mph should be the number," he said.

The speeds from the study would have been higher, Miller said, if the speed limit weren't 45 mph and the stretch wasn't heavily patrolled by sheriff's deputies.

The road can handle the higher speed, he said, and it's awfully tough to obey the 45 mph speed limit.

Amiro said such differences of opinion are typical.

"Any time you change the speed limit, there are a lot of people who want it to go down and a lot of people who want it to go up," Amiro said.

The public hearing will be held at 9:30 a.m. today in the fifth-floor assembly room of the county courthouse at 315 Court St., Clearwater.

- Robert Farley can be reached at (727) 445-4185 or at farley@sptimes.com.

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