ST. PETERSBURG — Think you're taking your life into your hands when navigating the main road bordering the often busy Northeast Park Shopping Center? Relief may be on the way.
Almost two dozen people attended a meeting last week to listen to the city's plans to make 38th Avenue N safer along a stretch that passes the popular shopping center and neighboring businesses that include a fast food restaurant, drug store, gym and a trio of banks.
The city proposes to install traffic lights and crosswalks at an intersection at the shopping center's main entrance. To slow traffic and reduce left-turn accidents, plans also call for construction of a series of concrete and landscaped medians along 38th Avenue N, which becomes 40th Avenue N as it winds east.
Joe Kubicki, director of transportation and parking, said work on the heavily trafficked route between Fourth and First streets is being proposed "because of the number of accidents that we have experienced in the area, including pedestrian fatalities."
In recent years, two bicyclists have also died along the stretch, police spokesman Mike Puetz said. Erik Ross was killed on 38th Avenue N near the shopping center in 2009. In 2007, Caren Karamesines died at 38th Avenue N and Fourth Street.
Karan Padgett, treasurer of the Northeast Park Neighborhood Association, is familiar with the area's hazards.
"I know that I am happy to see something being done,'' she said.
"To get into the Gold's Gym, it is very dangerous to make a left turn when you're heading east on 38th and when you're heading west on 38th to make a left turn into the BB&T bank. It's a bad area. Someone was hit crossing on one of those motorized wheelchairs on 40th.''
Cheryl Greenwood, a past president of the neighborhood association, also is pleased that the situation is being addressed. She said the association had been discussing the dangerous patch of road since 2006.
"It's just a very bad setup,'' she said.
And quite busy. Recent Metropolitan Planning Organization figures show 17,097 trips a day on 40th Avenue immediately east of First Street, Kubicki said.
At last week's meeting with residents, the city unveiled what Kubicki described as a preliminary plan to remedy the dangers. The city will incorporate neighbors' suggestions into the project's design, he said.
A spokeswoman for Publix Super Market, which owns the shopping center, said the new traffic light "will be a huge asset'' to customers and staff alike.
"This will provide a safer environment for everyone traveling to the Northeast Park Shopping Center and we are looking forward to the positive changes,'' said Shannon Patten, the Publix spokeswoman.
The improvements won't be immediate, though.
"It could be a year or two away, depending on funding,'' Kubicki said.
Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2283.