Hang out at Seminole Mall and ask folks what they think of the improved Walsingham Road, and you'll likely find most residents agree the improvements are terrific. Most everyone is pleased that the entrance to Walsingham Park has reopened at long last. But it's difficult to get consensus on one feature of the project, which has made accessing the Winn-Dixie at Walsingham Road and Seminole Boulevard a challenge for some and a headache for many.
One of two raised concrete medians installed on Walsingham between 113th Street and Seminole Boulevard now prevents eastbound motorists from turning left into the Winn-Dixie parking lot from Walsingham. The barrier also prevents motorists from exiting the Hess gas station across the street from the Winn-Dixie and turning left to head west on Walsingham.
Reader Lynn Edwards wrote a note to the Doc a few weeks ago to express her dismay: "If county planners had the barriers constructed to cut down on accidents, they are creating a worse problem. I live on 113th Street and often go to the Winn-Dixie and Hess gas station by taking Walsingham. The concrete causes me to have to go out onto Seminole Boulevard and then make a left turn into the Winn-Dixie parking lot, creating a greater possibility of an accident having to make a left turn from Seminole Boulevard.''
Linda Davis contacted the Doc with similar concerns: "I live near the intersection of Old Ridge Road and Old Walsingham Road, and I do the majority of my grocery shopping at the Winn-Dixie. It is an absolute disgrace. … The traffic divider that the county installed blocks the main entrance to the shopping plaza. I don't understand how the county can decide to block off an entrance to a shopping plaza."
We checked in with Pinellas County Public Works. Marq Caughell, a public information representative with the county, told us the traffic divider was installed to prevent unsafe traffic congestion during peak hours. Historically, vehicles waiting to turn across traffic on Walsingham were creating backups that extended well into the intersection of Seminole Boulevard, Caughell said. Traffic waiting in the eastbound, left-turn lane often blocked the median openings, further contributing to congestion.
"Pinellas County Public Works is aware that this change will require some adjustments from drivers. The changes were made after extensive observation of the intersection and continued observation is planned over the next several weeks to ensure the intersection is operating safely and determine if any changes are warranted," Caughell wrote in an e-mail.
In the meantime, petitions are making the rounds in Seminole and Largo, and signers are asking that the configuration be changed. Something tells me that we haven't heard the last word on this one.
I-275 at Roosevelt
Ongoing work will mean some lane closures
Commuters who travel from south to north county have been checking in to inquire about the progress of the project to improve I-275 at Roosevelt Boulevard. Specifically, some have asked whether the ongoing work will include incremental improvements during construction, which is set to continue into 2012.
John McShaffrey of the state Department of Transportation told us there will indeed be incremental lane closures and openings throughout the life of the project, and one of the two lanes on the bridge that goes over I-275 must be closed for about a year to allow crews to widen and improve the bridge. The temporary concrete barrier wall will remain through this phase in order to protect workers and prevent vehicles from driving off the sides of the bridge.
"The project under way is part of a series of projects to provide a new route between I-275 and the Bayside Bridge," McShaffrey said.
Until next week, happy and safe motoring, and Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
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