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County brings speedy relief to neighborhoods

Speed humps are installed in one Largo subdivision and plans are in the works for other traffic-calming features elsewhere.

By JULIANNE WU

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 17, 2000


For several years, Darryl Spelich watched cars speeding past his house on Passage Way in the Imperial Point subdivision in Largo.

Last November, he decided to do something about it. He asked the county for help.

And finally last week, four speed humps were installed on his street one block south of 102nd Avenue N and Hamlin Boulevard -- along with signs warning motorists that the speed limit is now 15 mph (down from an original 25 mph.)

Many motorists in the area apparently used Passage Way as a shortcut to Oakhurst Road.

Passage Way residents aren't the only ones who have petitioned Pinellas County for ways to slow down the increasing traffic in front of their homes.

"Right now, we have about 100 projects in the works countywide," said Pete Turgeon, county traffic operations manager. "We take them on a first-come, first-served basis."

Several high-traffic areas in the Largo and Seminole areas are now receiving attention.

Five speed humps and new traffic signs were just installed in the area of 94th Avenue N/Kay Drive/96th Place N corridor between 125th Street and 131st Street N in Seminole.

The street is lined with 84 single-family residential properties, yet a traffic study found that 1,946 vehicles traveled that street in one 24-hour period. The average rate of speed was about 39 mph in the then 25 mph zone.

At Bardmoor Place between Starkey and Cumberland roads in Seminole, speed humps and a raised crosswalk are expected to be installed the week of July 10. And, on 63rd Avenue N between Seminole Boulevard and 113th Street N, speed humps are scheduled to be installed the week of July 17.

Turgeon said cut-through traffic and speeding on residential streets is not new. "For as long as I've been with the county . . . 26 years, we've had these problems."

Requests for devices to control excessive traffic volumes and speeding in residential areas have increased since October 1997, when the county approved the Residential Traffic Management program.

About $300,000 is budgeted each year to provide at least 20 different types of traffic-calming devices for areas that qualify. Devices include raised crosswalks, diverters (islands) and road narrowing measures.

"Each case is different, and a decision as to which type of device is used comes only after the residents in a particular area go through a seven-step process," Turgeon said.

Hillsborough County has had traffic-calming devices since 1988. Pasco County also now has them, as well as Clearwater, Dunedin and several other cities in Pinellas County.

Spelich, 40, said that before the speed humps were installed on Passage Way, "We seemed to get the most traffic in the early morning and late afternoon, when people were going to and coming from work."

Although no one could pinpoint where the traffic came from for sure, there are a couple of new condominium complexes nearby.

A similar situation exists on 63rd Avenue N, between Seminole Boulevard and 113th St. N. The street is lined with single-family residences as well as a large apartment complex on the north side, and new construction is going up on the south side of the street.

"The process took awhile," said Spelich, "but it was worth it. The speed humps make a tremendous difference. They have cut the number of cars traveling this street down to at least half."

Spelich's actions on behalf of the neighbors on Passage Way began last fall when he contacted the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office and the county's traffic engineering division.

Shortly after meeting with him, county officials set up a "smart machine," measuring the speed of cars on the one-block Passage Way during a 24-hour period. They also counted 448 vehicles during that same time period, and the average speed was 39 mph in the then-25-mph zone.

Then Spelich circulated a petition among the homeowners on his block.

After that, county officials met with the people in the neighborhood to go over various solutions.

A second petition was circulated in April. Out of 44 property owners then on the block, 38 approved the plan to install speed humps.

"This is the best thing that has happened to this street," said Bruce Keltz, a retiree who also lives on Passage Way. "Lots of people here have young children, and they were pretty concerned. Cars were speeding through here at 45 or 55 mph."

For information

For more information about traffic-calming devices, call the county's traffic engineering division at 464-8907.

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