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City commissions study of traffic jams near Treasure Island Causeway

TREASURE ISLAND — A new traffic light or a roundabout that could bar some trucks from entering the city's downtown are just two possible solutions to what city officials and its consultants agree is a dangerous intersection.

Over the past three years, there have been more than 40 accidents on the west side of the Treasure Island Causeway where 104th, 107th and 108th avenues converge.

"There is no question this is an intersection that needs to be addressed," City Manager Reid Silverboard told the City Commission last week.

The problem area is informally called the St. James intersection, named for a nearby condominium.

The intersection has no light and only a short cut-through in the causeway center island to allow traffic to either enter or exit 108th or 104th avenues.

Traffic along the two truck routes and the city's main business street has increased since the new bridge to St. Petersburg was built and tolls were removed.

At times, as many as five cars stack up trying to cross oncoming traffic.

City officials have looked at the intersection for at least the past six years, recognizing that safety improvements need to be made. But the most obvious, installing a traffic light, has been met with resistance.

The most recent study conducted in April found that dangerous conditions merit installation of a traffic signal. But in July, the commission decided it wanted to look at other alternatives.

Now, the commission will spend another $25,000 for an expanded traffic circulation study.

"We need to look at the entire system and possibly prohibit some traffic movements," Domingo Noriega, a traffic engineer who originally recommended a traffic light, told the commission.

One solution, he said, would be to convert the angled intersection to a traffic circle.

"Not all trucks would be able to make turns at a roundabout, but it would allow all possible traffic movements," Noriega said.

Mayor Bob Minning asked that the new study also examine how bike paths would be routed through the area.

Only Commissioner Phil Collins opposed the new study.

"Frankly, I am opposed to this. If I have a problem with an intersection, I avoid it. Is this really the most dangerous intersection in the city?" he asked.

Just how much installing a light or redesigning the intersection would cost is not yet known.

Alternatives include restricting left turns for some or all approaches to the causeway, rerouting east-turning traffic to First Street and 107th Avenue, and reconfiguring the geometry of the intersection to reduce turn angles.

The eventual recommendations will compare traffic mobility issues with safety, construction and right-of-way costs and impacts on land owners.

"If it is a problem of safety, the sooner the better," commissioner Alan Bildz said in urging the commission approve the study.

An official vote to authorize the study will be made at the commission's Nov. 16 meeting.

City commissions study of traffic jams near Treasure Island Causeway 11/09/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 9, 2010 5:22pm]
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