Leaders examine ways to calm traffic
By AMY WIMMER
© St. Petersburg Times,
ST. PETE BEACH -- The city hopes to keep its northside residential streets from turning into high-traffic thoroughfares.
St. Pete Beach is considering myriad traffic-calming devices in the Blind Pass Road area, plus other parts of the city where traffic creates problems.
Traffic consultant Jerry Dabkowski presented several options, from speed humps and raised intersections to one-way streets and roundabouts.
Dabkowski did, however, assure commissioners that he won't suggest roundabouts for St. Pete Beach. Tourists and residents have complained about a roundabout in Clearwater Beach since its construction, saying it is confusing and dangerous.
"There are places for roundabouts in this world," Dabkowski said. "That's just not one of them."
The Department of Transportation plans to begin construction on Blind Pass Road next year. The agency hopes seldom, if ever, to close the road during the project, which will widen the street to five lanes.
But while DOT doesn't plan to officially funnel traffic to parallel streets such as West Gulf Boulevard and Boca Ciega Drive, the neighborhood and the city are bracing for savvy travelers to figure out how to drive much of the route without the annoyances of construction.
"That's going to happen," Dabkowski said. "How much is it going to happen? I would say that the complaints are going to increase every week."
Commissioners did not make any final decisions at a workshop last week where they discussed traffic calming, but they did suggest a number of alternatives that could change how residents and visitors get around St. Pete Beach:
Dabkowski suggested a number of street features the city could install to smooth the transition once Blind Pass Road construction begins. Among those recommendations were speed humps.
"Some communities absolutely love speed humps, some say no to speed humps," he said. "Speed humps will clearly reduce the speed limits down to 20 to 25 miles per hour.
The idea, Dabkowski said, is to make traveling on side roads difficult so motorists don't start using neighborhood streets to bypass Blind Pass Road. If that happens, he said, they might pick up habits that will be hard to break once construction is done.
"When you divert traffic, drivers get used to that, and then they don't want to go back to the main road," Dabkowski said.
Commissioner Jim Myers inquired about the unusual intersection at Blind Pass Road, 75th Avenue and Gulf Boulevard, where motorists must turn to corners to continue going north or south on the city's main thoroughfares.
"More than adding five lanes, they need to fix that intersection," said Chris Brimo, interim city manager.
Dabkowski said the DOT is working with traffic models to correct the problems with the intersection.
Commissioner Lolly Kreider, who represents District 4, consisting of Vina Del Mar and Pass-a-Grille, suggested lowering the speed limit on Pass-a-Grille way to 20 or 25 miles per hour. "It's 35, and of course people travel 45," she said.
Said Dabkowski: "There's a lot of people that ride their bikes along there and walk, and there's a lot of joggers."
Dabkowski also suggested adjusting the traffic signal at the intersection of 21st Avenue and Pass-a-Grille Way. The intersection, located at the corner where drivers can turn east to head to Vina Del Mar, is awkward because the Vina Del Mar bridge faces a one-way street heading east.
Dabkowski said some traffic light adjustments could make travel smoother at that intersection.
The City Commission is also concerned about the placement and appearance of medians the DOT will add on Blind Pass Road. "I think that's a traffic issue as well as a beautification issue," Friszolowski said.
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