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Ulmerton's Miracle Mile leaves motorists muttering

By JEAN HELLER

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 2, 2000


Boy, did our complaints about traffic conditions on the Miracle Mile of Ulmerton Road ever bring out the best in our sharp-eyed readers. It seems a lot of you are as befuddled about the design of that section of highway as we are.

Jessie and I had complained, if you recall, about the inexplicable cross-hatching that closes the extreme right lane on westbound Ulmerton after traffic merging from Roosevelt Boulevard goes through the traffic light at 34th Street.

When the cross-hatching ends, the lane opens again but exclusively for right-turners. One reader suggests that a new right lane be constructed and reserved for right turns along its entire length, and the current right lane be left open to through traffic. Seems reasonable enough to us.

Another reader pointed out a signage problem along the same stretch at the south end of the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Airport property. There are two signs in the westbound lanes warning that Roosevelt and Ulmerton are about to diverge.

The first one notes, quite correctly, that the right lane is an "Exit Only." In that lane, you must leave Ulmerton and turn onto Roosevelt. The second sign, however, warns that the right and center lanes are "Exit Only." It says so right up there in big black letters on a yellow field.

Those of you who are Miracle Mile regulars know this isn't true. The center lane divides, and you can merge onto Roosevelt or go straight on Ulmerton.

I think the state roadies need to take this whole stretch back to the drawing board.

We also received several gripes about the Miracle Mile going in the other direction. South of the airport, Roosevelt's two lanes split with little warning. Motorists in the right lane must merge onto westbound Ulmerton. Motorists in the left lane must merge onto eastbound Ulmerton.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of cars every day dive from the right to the left lane, knocking down traffic barriers and threatening the fenders of other drivers. Jessie and I are prepared to believe that some of this traffic diving is caused by the confusion of strangers.

But our cynical natures believe a lot of it is simply people who think their time is so darned valuable they must risk (and sometimes cause) accidents to gain six car lengths on their less-important commuting brethren.

Speed bump alert!

The county has approved two brand-spanking-new sets of speed bumps, coming soon to a street near you. The first set of three will go in along a 1,650-foot section of 58th Avenue N between 28th and 25th streets. A second set of two speed bumps will bulge from the pavement along an 1,100-foot section of 25th Street N between 55th and 58th avenues

Squeeze right grabs attention

The street sign is enough to stop traffic.

"Squeeze right?"

What sort of traffic maneuver is a squeeze?

The sign on First Avenue N at 18th Street clearly says, "Thru traffic squeeze right."

What had been a through lane becomes an exclusive left-turn lane, and motorists were not heeding the change.

"That's an interesting sign," said St. Petersburg's traffic maven, Angelo Rao. "Technically, we should use "merge.' Merge is appropriate. But we wanted to try something different, something people would notice, and "squeeze' implies you really have to think about what you're doing, look in your mirror, glance over your shoulder, and move to the right."

The sign's purpose is to stop motorists from using the turn lane as a through lane.

Monster pothole will jolt you

And we have our first winner in the Pothole Contest! It's an 11-foot-wide monster blocking the entrance to an alley that runs south from the 1400 block of 20th Avenue N. It was nominated by Eugene Ruga of St. Petersburg, who described it as a "sinkhole." When we found it after a shower, it was filled with 10 inches of water, thus making it a "stealth" pothole. On the plus side, Jessie thought it was big enough to make a very nice swimming pool for her.

Keep those pothole nominations coming.

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