Neighborhood may not be hemmed in
By MAUREEN BYRNE
© St. Petersburg Times,
SEMINOLE -- Responding to residents' concerns about a proposed plan that would limit access in and out of their neighborhood, the county has decided to do more traffic studies of the area.
Part of a $19-million road widening project includes closing the median openings on Starkey Road at 78th Place N and 79th Place N. That would leave 78th Avenue N as the only road in the neighborhood where residents could turn left onto Starkey.
"This is really good if they're going to reconsider," said Brenda Keating, who lives in the middle class neighborhood of 99 homes off Starkey Road.
Reconsider, yes, but that doesn't mean the design is dead, said Jim Collins, a senior engineer with the county's Transportation Engineering Division.
"It still might be this way," he said. "This is just another review to confirm some numbers. If they are, in fact, lower, then we need to look at the geometry of the medians."
The project's preliminary plan calls for extending a left-turn lane that takes drivers to the Wellington School at 8000 Starkey Road, where there is a signal light. Motorists who turn left enter the school's parking lot; those who turn right end up on Flamevine Avenue. A longer turn lane at the stoplight would eliminate the median openings at 78th Place and 79th Place.
Earlier traffic counts show the need for the longer turn lane, Collins said. "Maybe we caught (Wellington) on a real busy day and it wasn't normal traffic," he said.
If so, the left-turn lane could possibly be shortened, Collins said, and one or both of the medians could stay open.
"Nothing has been etched in stone yet, but we are working with them to help people on both sides of the road," said Jim Pleso, manager for the Park Street/Starkey Road project.
About 30,000 cars travel daily on the 5-mile section of Park Street and Starkey Road between Tyrone Boulevard and Bryan Dairy Road. And by 2020, another 8,000 motorists are expected to drive that stretch of corridor. The road widening project is scheduled to start in 2006.
Pleso said the county may explore other ways to alleviate traffic generated from the school.
That's good news for Anna Muir, who has lived in the neighborhood off Starkey Road since 1969. "It's like demolition derby up there," she said, referring to the traffic on Starkey when students are dropped off and picked up.
Mrs. Muir and Mrs. Keating feel that they and their neighbors are being penalized for a traffic problem that is not their fault. And, they say, with only one median opening, vehicles traveling south on Starkey would have only one route into their neighborhood.
"The county needs to contact the traffic unit at the Sheriff's Office and find out what the real problems are out here," Mrs. Keating said, "because they just don't know."
Collins, the county engineer, said the county will host a public meeting in about six months to discuss the road project.
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