Dr. Delay readers have been bringing up the issue of traffic congestion at the westbound Pinellas Bayway toll plaza for some time. The conversation always seems to become more animated and colorful when warm weather returns and, with it, the increase in vehicles heading to the beaches.
We passed along suggestions for solutions to the state Department of Transportation, including a request from residents of Dolphin Cay that a traffic signal be installed. We reported a few weeks ago that studies have shown that stopping traffic on 54th Avenue S would make the problem worse.
Reader mail has been unanimous that another possible solution to the westbound traffic jams would be to lengthen the one lane dedicated to SunPass users and install prominent signs to this effect.
Joan Wulfson wrote: "Has anyone ever explored the possibility of extending the SunPass-only lane at the Bayway toll booth by Dolphin Cay and posting signs earlier that the left lane is SunPass-only? It seems as if there are many cars that stay in the left lane until they reach the toll booth and then switch over. This creates a logjam and cars with the pass are stuck!"
We shared these and other suggestions with Kris Carson of the state DOT, who informed us that the department is in the process of making some changes.
"What we are proposing is to add pavement markings to the left-most lane for approximately 1,600 feet back from the toll plaza. These pavement markings will include a solid 12-foot white lane line and also SunPass Only wording every 250 feet on the pavement. Our hope is that this will get SunPass users (and ONLY SunPass users) into this left lane much sooner, allowing them to get through the toll plaza, while others are digging for change in the other lanes."
Carson also told us that the department will add what is called a "Qwick Kurb" at the toll plaza that will function as a barrier to prevent motorists from making those dangerous last minute lane changes.
Pedestrians want Gulf Blvd. crosswalks
Another project that the state is working on in response to reader mail is pedestrian safety concerns in Treasure Island. It seems some folks walking to and from Publix on Gulf Boulevard at 104th Avenue have had close calls trying to cross the street. Frank Rowan wrote to the Doc about a scary experience he had that could have resulted in tragedy had it not been for a Good Samaritan with quick reflexes:
"Had it not been for the young man next to me at the yield crossing who pulled me back, I would surely have been hit by a car that accelerated through the inside lane of the crosswalk on Gulf Boulevard when other cars on both sides had stopped. … It would seem at the very least, a warning light should be installed in front of the Bilmar Hotel, or better yet, a traffic light with turn lanes."
The DOT's Carson told us that the department has received many requests for crosswalks along Gulf Boulevard and is studying the entire corridor for pedestrian issues. The department conducted pedestrian counts at the intersection in mid April and determined that the counts obtained during peak seasonal days indicate that the pedestrian volumes are slightly higher than the minimum requirement for signals based on the federal standards.
But based on observation, DOT staffers say the number would not be met on an average day. But if Treasure Island provides the money, the DOT could issue a permit for the signal, Carson said.
Carson also pointed out that the intersection in question is about 1,000 feet from an existing signal at Gulf Boulevard and Central Avenue and the minimum spacing required between signals is 1,340 feet. The engineer in charge has expressed willingness to waive the space requirement and approve the signal, pending the findings of the pedestrian study.
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