Be prepared for a few street closures today in downtown St. Petersburg to include Bayshore Drive from First Avenue SE to Fifth Avenue SE starting at 7 a.m. The closure will make way for the second annual Women's Half Marathon, which starts and finishes on Bayshore Drive SE in front of Albert Whitted Park. Things should wrap about 4 p.m. Police will reopen streets on a rolling basis along the race route and will be at intersections to manage traffic.
Part of Central Avenue will be closed until about 8 p.m. today to include Fourth and Fifth streets and Fifth Street from First Avenue N to First Avenue S for the Florida Craftsmen CraftArt 2010 festival, which will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
East Avenue, Clearwater
Road's west side is now two-way bike trail
Reader James Raulerson asked the Doc about recent work on railroad lines in downtown Clearwater, accompanied by a change in traffic flow: "CSX finally finished redoing the railroad line in the middle of East Avenue in downtown Clearwater. Now it seems that you can't drive south on the road. Driving north is no problem, but southbound is blocked. Is this the way it will be from now on?"
The short answer is yes. Paul Bertels, Clearwater's traffic operations division manager, told us the west side of East Avenue (the former southbound vehicle lane) is being converted to a two-way bike trail from Drew Street to Turner Street, which means the wide sidewalk along the west side of East Avenue will be for pedestrians.
Signs will be added to indicate that the northbound lane is one-way northbound for cars and that the bike lanes are for bicycles only. Bertels said that this is the first corridor he is aware of that has accommodations for four types of traffic: pedestrian, bike, train and cars. The city hopes to have the final striping and signs in by the first of December.
Why eliminate a lane at Gulf-to-Bay split?
While we're in downtown Clearwater, we'll answer another reader question. Robert Woodall wrote:
"I noticed two weeks ago during my commute into work that the Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard split going into downtown Clearwater (heading westbound towards Clearwater Beach) was changed.
"In the past, Gulf-to-Bay would become a four-lane road just before the Highland Street intersection, with the two left lanes continuing straight and becoming Court Street, a one-way street that literally takes traffic past the County Courthouse. The two right lanes would veer to the right, becoming Cleveland Street going through the heart of Clearwater's downtown. … The change I noticed has resulted in the two lanes that split to the right and became Cleveland Street being reduced to one lane. The reason appears to be so a bike lane could be added. … The situation has become more dangerous because drivers trying to merge into the Court Street-bound lanes are doing so from the only lane that is Cleveland Street-bound, causing sudden stops, near-pileups, and increased horn blowing because traffic backs up in the one lane."
The state Department of Transportation and the city of Clearwater teamed up on a response to this question.
"In 2005, with the opening of the new Memorial Causeway Bridge, traffic no longer goes through downtown to get to the beach so the necessity of two lanes to downtown disappeared. … After the striping change, the median lane and center lane will take you to the beach without any lane change all the way from the Courtney Campbell Causeway to Clearwater Beach. The city requested the striping change. In regards to the bike lane, in any urban area where we are making pavement or striping changes, the Florida Department of Transportation will add bike lanes where we can," wrote Kris Carson, spokesperson for the state DOT in an e-mail.
Please e-mail Dr. Delay at email@example.com to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions. Questions selected for publication may be edited for space and clarity.