The city showcased plans to turn Highland Avenue into a pedestrian-friendly corridor from East Bay Drive to Belleair Road. But most residents who came last week to the presentation at Largo Public Library spent more time venting about a proposed roundabout in the project than the project itself. "This is scary to me," said Wanda Shelley, 55, eyeing a display showing a roundabout at the intersection of Rosery Road and Highland. "That's a busy intersection."
Others, including Suzanne Ryan, brought up the much-maligned roundabout at Clearwater Beach.
"I don't care what else they do with the road," declared Ryan, 61, who said she doesn't go to Clearwater Beach, just because of the roundabout. "It's the roundabout I don't like."
The city is still studying traffic conditions at Highland and Rosery, said Leland Dicus, city engineer.
But, he said, the current signalized intersection isn't pedestrian-friendly. When the light is green, drivers "fly through there," he said.
Dicus compared the proposed roundabout with smaller one-lane neighborhood roundabouts in Clearwater, which has five of them.
And the one-lane roundabout proposed for Highland will be much easier for drivers to navigate than the two-lane Clearwater Beach entry roundabout where "traffic volumes are many, many times greater," said consultant John Seals, transportation manager with King Engineering.
Some of the current traffic problems at the Rosery intersection peak on Sundays, staff and residents said, because St. Paul United Methodist Church has facilities on the northwest and southwest corners of the intersection and parking on the northeast one.
Vice Mayor Gigi Arntzen said she isn't sold on the roundabout, either. She wonders if a left-turn arrow may ease traffic issues just as effectively. She's also concerned that buses and fire trucks won't be able to navigate it as easily.
Ken Sides, Clearwater traffic calming engineer, said one-lane roundabouts are designed to accommodate those type of vehicles and are safe.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, roundabouts reduce injury crashes by 76 percent and fatalities by up to 90 percent.
Sides added that drivers typically travel Clearwater one-lane roundabouts at 11, 12 or 13 mph.
The roundabout concept isn't a done deal, Dicus said, but "it's something we're considering."
The city also plans other methods to revamp the road.
Wednesday, the city showcased two options. Both include the roundabout and an 8- to 10-foot-wide pedestrian trail along most of the east side of the road.
But they chiefly differ in one way. One option, estimated at $7.15 million, has a center median along most of the road.
The other, estimated at about $5.6 million, has medians in three areas, near Largo City Hall, and Rosery and Belleair roads.
Funds for the project will mainly come from Penny for Pinellas sales tax and transportation impact fees.
Shelley said she liked the option with medians along most of the road because it seems safer for pedestrians.
The city also plans to create a network of trails that would link various local parks and attractions, including the Highland Complex, Largo Central Park Nature Preserve, Largo Public Library, Largo Central Park and the county's Eagle Lake Park.