Week in review
By Times staff writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published December 3, 2000
CAR KILLS NEW MOTHER IN COUNTRYWAY: Michele Calta was a first-time mother, a 26-year-old accountant on maternity leave, adjusting to the new demands that came with 1-month-old Kaitlyn Renee. On Tuesday she ventured out for a stroll with her daughter along the quiet streets of Countryway. Moments later, she was struck and killed by a car a few hundred yards from her home. The baby, strapped in a car seat propped in the stroller, was thrown to the pavement but suffered only bruises to her forehead. The driver, 17-year-old Richard David Delrio, lives a few houses down from the Caltas.
"This is the worst hell I can imagine," said Michael Calta, 29, her brother-in-law. "She was truly an angel. All she wanted was to be a good wife and a good mother."
Hillsborough sheriff's deputies said Delrio, a neighbor and senior at Sickles High School, steered a blue Mitsubishi Eclipse around a corner and struck Mrs. Calta and the stroller. Mrs. Calta hit the windshield.
"She made the ultimate sacrifice," said Tom Calta, who was told by deputies that his daughter-in-law shielded the baby from the car. "She took the full force of the impact."
Delrio had not been charged in the accident late last week.
PARKWAY TO OPEN IN FEBRUARY: After 2 1/2 years of construction, the $500-million, three-county Suncoast Parkway will open on Feb. 4. The 32-mile route will include three main toll plazas and eight ramp toll plazas. The cost of driving from the Veterans Expressway in Hillsborough to the Hernando-Citrus line will be $3.
The last 10 miles, from State Road 50 in Hernando to U.S. 98 near the Citrus County line, won't open until summer.
"I think it will help the commuters a lot and hopefully provide some economic development for the area," said Pasco County Administrator John Gallagher, one of the pioneers of the build-the-parkway movement in the 1980s.
It's also one of the first large Florida highway projects built with bicyclists in mind. The Suncoast Parkway Trail will run 29 miles parallel to the parkway, from Lutz-Lake Fern Road in Hillsborough to SR 50.
The project has consumed about 5-million pounds of reinforcing steel and 85 miles of concrete bridge panels. Contractors have moved enough dirt to fill Raymond James Stadium in Tampa 25 times.
ELECTION CRISIS CREATES WORK FOR LOCAL EXPERTS: University of South Florida professor Susan MacManus has been interviewed more than 300 times since this state became the focus of the presidential election three weeks ago. She can tell when the story is about to take a new twist by the number of messages piling up on her cell phone. She can gauge international interest directly; every day brings calls from media outlets from Dublin to Australia.
"It's exhilarating, but it's also tiring," said MacManus, one of the state's best-known political scientists and a member of Gov. Jeb Bush's transition team. "I'm spending eight to 10 hours a day just dealing with reporters."
These are exhausting days for a lot of university professors in Florida, whose collective wisdom has never been in such demand, and probably never will be again. Some of the clamor stems from their genuine insight into Florida politics and the state's legal idiosyncrasies. But even the professors concede more of it is due to the media's insatiable need for content.
Florida State University professors have been asked to do live interviews outside the state Capitol building at 3 a.m. The University of Florida is using a television studio inside its football stadium to beam its experts worldwide.
"I got an e-mail from a professor who said one of his students had just seen me on CNN in Japan," said UF law school dean Jon Mills, a constitutional law expert who estimates he did at least 10 interviews Tuesday before 2 p.m.
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