Thursday, February 22, 2018
Public safety

Tarpon mayor urges changes at Pinellas Trail intersection

TARPON SPRINGS — On a cool, sunny morning recently, Dunedin retiree Bill Dye pedaled his three-wheeled blue Tadpole tricycle north on the Pinellas Trail to the intersection of Klosterman Road and Alt. U.S. 19.

The pedestrian crosswalk sign invited him to proceed. But at the precise moment he rolled into the intersection, a middle-age man in a gray convertible zipped around the corner and then screeched to a stop. Dye retreated and signaled for the driver to go ahead.

"I'm out at the trail every day, and it's a problem," said Dye, who said he has biked 100,000 miles and never had an accident. "(Bicyclists) really should not cross the crosswalk unless you make eye contact with the driver."

Likely, the motorist was also surprised by the near collision.

Aside from a tilted yellow sign that says "turning traffic must yield to pedestrians," drivers have little warning a right-hand turn will send them barreling through the Pinellas Trail at the highly used route that runs parallel to Alt. 19.

Tarpon Springs Mayor David Archie, who bikes to Dunedin and back several mornings per week with former Tarpon Springs Commissioner Glen Davis, said he has long grumbled about the danger.

But only recently did Archie ask for action at a meeting for the Metropolitan Planning Organization, which sets transportation policy, putting into motion a review process that can stretch months or years because of red tape.

"In my humble opinion some type of caution light would help," Archie said. "But if not, at least adequate signage would let the drivers know there is a trail and there are pedestrians and riders."

So far, the MPO and two of its subcommittees, the Bicycle Advisory Committee and the Technical Coordinating Committee, have reviewed concerns about the intersection.

But it will get more complicated, still.

The intersection is split between Tarpon Springs and unincorporated Pinellas County, so the state has control of the intersection while the county maintains the traffic signal.

The state Department of Transportation is analyzing crash data, traffic flow and the number of people who use the Pinellas Trail near that intersection, said Pinellas County traffic engineer Tom Washburn.

County engineers will review the state's study and make their own observations, Washburn said.

Only then can the state and the county work together to install a right-turn traffic signal, which he estimated would cost less than $10,000.

In the meantime, the Tarpon Springs Police Department and the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office are being asked to monitor the intersection to keep it safe.

Officials considered installing signs or lights at the intersection once before, after a cement truck killed cyclist Horace Hall, a Crystal Beach resident, when he was crossing north in 2000. It was the trail's first fatality resulting from a collision with a vehicle.

The tragedy helped stoke plans to ban right turns when pedestrians and cyclists cross north at Alt. 19 and Curlew Road, a similar intersection near beach traffic and Dunedin shopping.

There, trail users push a button that activates a digital no-right-turn sign for drivers. If there are no users on the trail, the traffic can keep flowing, said Gina Harvey of the Pinellas County Planning Department.

"There are so many options these days," she said. "I hope we can get something up there."

Brittany Alana Davis can be reached at [email protected] or (850) 323-0353.

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