ST. PETERSBURG — As the city prepares to pay its respects to slain police Officer David Crawford today, the public should also be prepared for heavy traffic and road closures related to the memorial.
Thousands are expected to gather at First Baptist Church on Gandy Boulevard for the service that starts at 11 a.m. The program, which will include speeches, final honors, a flyover and a 21-gun salute, is expected to last until 2 p.m.
The public is invited to the service, but inside seating and on-site parking will be reserved for family, friends, public officials, the St. Petersburg police force and visiting law enforcement officers. Large video screens and seating will be set up outside the church to allow mourners to gather and watch the service.
Overflow parking for today's service will be at the Derby Lane dog track parking lot at 10490 Gandy Blvd. Free shuttles will also be available there. Message boards and officers will direct traffic to additional parking as needed.
But motorists should avoid that area throughout the day. Gandy from Interstate 275 to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street N will be closed starting at 8 a.m. and will remain closed possibly as late as 6 p.m.
Frontage road/94th Avenue N near First Baptist will also be closed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Locals only will be allowed through the blockade. Both directions of M.L. King will also be shut down from Gandy to First Avenue N from about 2 to 4 p.m.
Motorists will be able to access north- and southbound I-275 from Gandy from the west, but they should expect lengthy delays. I-275 will not be accessible from westbound Gandy. All eastbound Gandy traffic will be diverted north or south along I-275.
After today's service, a police procession will escort Officer Crawford to Gross Funeral Home in St. Petersburg. That will take place about 2:30 p.m., and motorists should expect more delays along the procession route:
• The procession will leave First Baptist and head east on 94th Avenue N.
• It will turn south on M.L. King.
• The procession will then turn west onto First Avenue N, then turn south on 64th Street. The family will go to the funeral home.
• The procession will head east on First Avenue S to the Tropicana Field parking lot, where it will then disperse.
Officers will be stationed at every intersection. The procession is expected to take about an hour. Motorists are advised to stick to I-275 as much as possible to avoid delays.
The public will be allowed to pay their respects along the funeral route as long as they do so safely. Traffic won't return to normal on Gandy until about 5 p.m.
Several PSTA bus routes will be affected by the closures and delayed or detoured about an hour this afternoon. The affected routes include the 52, 59, 74 and 97. For details, patrons can check the "Rider Alert" page on PSTA.net or call the PSTA InfoLine at (727) 540-1900.
Today's memorial will be shown live on tampabay.com, the website of the St. Petersburg Times. All local TV stations will also broadcast it live, and it will be aired on StPeteTV, Bright House Channel 615, Knology Channel 15 and Verizon FiOs Channel 20.
First Baptist Church is also where the viewing and memorial was held for St. Petersburg Sgt. Thomas J. Baitinger and Officer Jeffrey A. Yaslowitz, who were killed in the line of duty on Jan. 24.
Their service was attended by 10,000 mourners. More out-of-town law enforcement is expected to attend Crawford's service, according to St. Petersburg police spokesman Mike Puetz, especially from agencies that couldn't attend the first service because of the short time between the shootings and the service.
"But now we've had more than a week," Puetz said. "There's more time for them to get here."