ST. PETERSBURG — Three years since the city first proposed traffic improvements to a treacherous stretch near the Northeast Park Shopping Center, relief is on the horizon.
The $755,000 project, which had been delayed because of funding, will receive $435,000 from the state Department of Transportation for work that will include traffic lights and a crosswalk at the shopping center's main entrance on 38th Avenue, and landscaped and concrete medians along the avenue as it winds east, becoming 40th Avenue, between Fourth and First streets.
City transportation manager Michael J. Frederick laid out the plan Monday evening at a Northeast Park Neighborhood Association meeting attended by about two dozen residents, director of neighborhood affairs Mike Dove and City Council member Bill Dudley.
The work is expected to begin in June and be complete by the end of the year. It will require lane closures during off-peak hours.
Neighborhood association vice president Cheryl Greenwood is pleased that the improvements, under discussion since 2006, will become a reality.
"It's very dangerous, because pedestrians just walk out there and one lane will stop and another won't stop," she said of the stretch of road that includes a McDonald's, three banks, Gold's Gym and the shopping center anchored by Publix. Frederick said there are 14 driveways on the corridor.
Greenwood, a member of Gold's Gym, spoke of the perils of navigating the busy road. "Trying to get out of there is scary," she said.
A study indicates that about 20,000 vehicles travel the five-lane section each day. The project is expected to slice the average of eight crashes a year, Frederick said. He added that the city had examined data about single crashes, right and left turns, rear-enders, sideswipes and vehicles hitting fixed objects.
"Crashes were caused mostly by left-turning traffic," he told Northeast Park residents Monday night.
There have been three fatalities along the stretch in recent years. In 2004, a 73-year-old pedestrian, Dennison Rusinow, was killed crossing 38th Avenue. He was heading toward the shopping center. Cyclists Erik Ross and Caren Karamesines were killed in 2009 and 2007, respectively.
The project will add traffic lights and a crosswalk where 38th and 39th avenues meet, at the newly realigned shopping center entrance. Additionally, the new traffic signal will be coordinated with those at Fourth and First streets, Frederick said. Concrete and landscaped medians will go in along 38th Avenue N to slow traffic and reduce left-turn accidents.
"We determined that we can reduce crashes by 5.6 per year," Frederick said.
Brian West, a spokesman for Publix, said the supermarket chain is pleased about the proposed work.
"We're very happy about it," West said. "We want our stores to be very easy for ingress and egress for our customers, so this is a good thing."
Now if only something can be done about the parking lot, which has grown more congested since Publix closed its store across Fourth Street for renovation.
"That's the biggest mess of a parking lot I've ever seen," Greenwood said.
Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this article. Contact Waveney Ann Moore at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283.