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St. Pete Beach plan would direct more cars toward Corey Avenue, business district

ST. PETE BEACH — Once upon a time, Corey Avenue was the city's vibrant downtown economic center.

In the 1970s, a new bridge was built, and traffic that once brought beach visitors onto Corey Avenue shifted a block north to 75th Avenue.

In the past 40-plus years, shops and restaurants on Corey Avenue have struggled to stay in business.

Now city officials think they have an idea that could reverse that trend.

At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, the City Commission will hold a special workshop to tell the public about it.

The idea seems simple: create a system of one-way streets that would force cars to cross Corey Avenue, in the heart of the retail district.

"We think this will bring more eyeballs through downtown so Corey Avenue becomes visible again," Karl Holley, the city's director of community development, explained Thursday.

City officials call the entire new traffic pattern a "couplet."

The net effect would be a circular, counter-clockwise, one-way traffic pattern encompassing two blocks bounded by 75th Avenue on the north, Gulf Boulevard on the west, 73rd Avenue on the south and Blind Pass Road on the east.

For southbound traffic entering the city, little would change.

Vehicles coming across the bridge from South Pasadena would continue west on 75th Avenue to make a left turn onto Gulf Boulevard.

Vehicles traveling south on Blind Pass Road could still turn either right or left onto 75th Avenue to go either east toward the South Pasadena bridge or west toward Gulf Boulevard.

Traffic on 75th Avenue west of Blind Pass Road would become one-way, while traffic east of Blind Pass Road would remain two-way.

However, traffic would no longer be able to cross 75th Avenue to continue south on Blind Pass Road toward Corey Avenue.

Instead, that section of Blind Pass Road would be reserved for one-way northbound traffic diverted from Gulf Boulevard.

Northbound vehicles on Gulf Boulevard would be forced to make a right turn onto 73th Avenue and then a left turn onto Blind Pass Road a block south of Corey.

Both 73rd Avenue and Blind Pass Road would become one way at that point.

Holley admits the entire new traffic pattern is only "slightly more functional" but he says it will eliminate the accident-prone, northbound left turn onto Blind Pass Road.

"The real underlying rationale is economic," Holley said. "Since the 1970s, businesses on Corey Avenue have underperformed economically."

Holley said the city could create about 100 parking spaces in the two-lane area that now accommodates northbound traffic.

That represents a $2 million to $4 million value just in parking, Holley said.

The one-way traffic flow on the couplet streets also would make it easier for pedestrians to cross Gulf Boulevard and would reconnect W Corey Avenue to the city's business core.

As for the $1 million to $2 million cost, Holley said the project would be paid for with traffic impact fees collected by Pinellas County.

In addition, the city already has budgeted $300,000 for beautification and landscaping on Corey Avenue and Boca Ciega Drive.

The commission will not make a decision Tuesday. The workshop is for residents and business owners to agree that the proposed change in traffic flow will benefit the city.

If eventually approved by the commission, the city still will need permits from the state Department of Transportation, which regulates road design for 75th Avenue and Gulf Boulevard, both state roads.

The process could take up to three years to complete.

St. Pete Beach plan would direct more cars toward Corey Avenue, business district 10/01/11 [Last modified: Saturday, October 1, 2011 4:31am]
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