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Speak up if you want to slow down speeders

By JEAN HELLER

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 9, 2001


There is a lot to find frustrating about traffic in southern Pinellas County. Once in a while, we write about a traffic problem and succeed in getting some action. But there are some problems we can't resolve.

We can't do anything about people speeding. Since neither Jessie nor I owns a laser gun, we have no way to prove that people are exceeding the speed limit on any given street. And even if we could prove it, we don't have the authority to take action.

So a humble suggestion. The city of St. Petersburg has a good rapport with the city's neighborhood associations. If you live in the city and think there is a speeding problem on your street, start with your neighborhood association.

If you live in other communities, go to the council member who represents you.

If you live in an unincorporated part of the county, go to the commissioner elected from your area.

Ask for an investigation of your complaint. You might be surprised at the results.

And, in the meantime, be patient. There are 100,000 others out there with complaints, too.

* * *

Last week we wondered aloud, as we often do, about the intersection of First Avenue N and 20th Street. East of 20th, the left through lane of First Avenue N becomes a left-turn only lane. West of 20th, the former lane has been converted to parking spaces in which we never, ever see people parked.

Drivers continue to use the left-turn lane as a through lane, and they use the empty parking spaces as a through lane, too. We suggested that if no one is going to enforce the left-turn lane, that First Avenue be put back the way it was.

Well! We heard almost immediately from Brian Longstreth, owner of Your Neighbor Realty at 2437 Central Ave. Longstreth has been active forever in helping bring improvements to the Kenwood and Central Oak Park neighborhoods, and he had a bone to pick with us (Jessie loves to pick bones, so she took his side right away).

And we have to acknowledge that he makes some good points.

"The traffic counts on First avenues N and S barely warrant two lanes, much less the four that were in place west of 20th Street," Longstreth wrote. "An effort to make the Central Avenue corridor more pedestrian-friendly included reducing the the number of lanes on First avenues N and S to three, (with) the inclusion of a bike lane. This would help make it easier for residents of Historic Kenwood and Palmetto Park to walk and shop on Central Avenue."

20th Street is a logical place for this reduction, Longstreth said, since it leaves four lanes to accommodate baseball traffic, then reduces the lanes through more residential areas.

"The parking may not be needed now," he added, "but with . . . redevelopment . . . coming along nicely, hopefully the need is in the future. New restaurants, galleries, businesses, residential loft and townhouses projects have all begun. . . .

"The area was also designated a Florida Main Street area that will help achieve more redevelopment. There are two blocks of warning signs and turn arrows informing people of the lane movement."

Okay. We can buy that. All of it.

But this doesn't get to the problem of drivers who use the left-turn lane as a through lane, and to that we have yet another humble suggestion.

Why doesn't the city put up barriers on the west side of 20th street where the parking spaces begin? Drivers might think twice about breaking the law if they risk denting their cars.

* * *

It's Eyeball Jiggler of the Week time, that poignant, poetic place in this column where we inform you about locations in area roads you don't want to touch with a 10-foot pole, let alone a rubber tire.

A faithful reader e-mailed us about a pothole-riddled stretch of 62nd Avenue NE between Riviera Middle School and the Mangrove Bay Golf Course, so we drove up there Thursday afternoon to take a look. Imagine our shock to find city trucks already there patching things up?

Just the threat of Jessie showing up to ridicule the condition of the street was enough to send the asphalt troops leaping to take action and stave off embarrassment.

By the way, the patches are just that. A couple of good summer rains and they're potholes again.

However, on our way to this viewing, we found another bad patch -- or lack of patch. The northbound lanes of First Street N at 40th Avenue are an absolute mess. Worse even than 62nd Avenue, though not for as long a stretch.

This intersection needs help now!

* * *

Watch out for roadwork in these areas this week:

Pinellas Park: Crimson, Division and Wayne streets and 54th Avenue from 34th to 28th streets is scheduled for maintenance of filtration systems; 28th Street between Ulmerton Road and Gandy Boulevard will see roadside mowing.

Seminole: Ditch and roadside mowing along 98th Street between 102nd and 82nd avenues, 100th Way and Bay Pines Boulevard, and 94th Avenue east of Starkey Road. Repairs are scheduled on the Park Boulevard Bridge.

Lealman/Kenneth City: Roadside and slope mowing near Joe's Creek east of 66th Street, at the Joe's Creek retention ponds at 43rd and 28th streets and on 54th Avenue between 66th Street and U.S. 19.

* * *

Dr. Delay's Terrible Traffic Tidbit of the Week: Some form of driver distraction, including talking, eating, reading or changing radio stations, is involved in as many as 30 percent of all crashes. Not to mention petting your dog.

- Dr. Delay can be reached by e-mail at docdelay@sptimes.com, by fax at (727) 893-8675 or by snail mail at 490 First Ave., S, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.

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