The morning drive can be exasperating for some commuters, and at its worst, harrowing. Folks who commute from one end of the county to the other regale the Doc with tales attesting to this.
Herbert Morris, for example, wrote to say his commute takes him over the Bayside Bridge and into a traffic snarl nightmare. According to Morris, the traffic signal at Drew Street and McMullen-Booth causes backups south onto the Bayside Bridge nearly every evening between 5 and 6 p.m. Traffic headed north into Clearwater is a mess all the way up to Tampa Road, and the same occurs for southbound McMullen-Booth rush-hour traffic in the mornings. Morris wonders whether the Drew Street signal is the culprit.
"Traffic should be able to continue for up to five-minute intervals going north on McMullen-Booth all the way to Tampa Road," Morris wrote.
We asked Norman Jester, Pinellas County's traffic signal system supervisor, to weigh in. Jester told us the backup is the result of the volume of traffic and the fact that traffic encounters a signal after 4 miles of open road (the Bayside Bridge) and three busy roads feeding it.
"If this signal did not exist or if it had a constant green light, the same problem would move to State Road 590. In fact it would be much worse because the side street demand is much higher at SR 590. Five minutes of green time would be nice for northbound traffic, but delaying all other movements at every signal for five minutes is not feasible," he said.
Improvements are in the works at McMullen-Booth and Drew that should ease things.
Dead fronds often considered a nice touch
Reader Larry Kaiser is distracted by what he refers to as an eyesore in the form of unsightly palm trees in the middle of Interstate 275. Kaiser suggested a line of 100 or so trees in the median near Roosevelt Boulevard needs attention.
"The dead fronds are hanging down, which look very messy and gives St. Petersburg a black eye. People driving in and out of our lovely city on I-275 must think we are very cheap. There's nothing better than a nice clean palm tree. Who is in charge of this maintenance?"
The trees in question are Washington palms, which hang onto their dead fronds for years unless they are manually removed, rather than shedding them.
"This skirt of grey/tan fronds are considered a positive feature of the palms to some. Since the palms were planted and are maintained by the city of St. Petersburg, their appearance (as long as it does not impact roadway safety) remains the city's choice," wrote Kris Carson of the state Department of Transportation. Mike Frederick, the city's director of neighborhood transportation, is researching the maintenance policy and will update us soon.
Yellow lines move over to accommodate parking
Reader Bill Schleich is seeing double — more precisely, a moving double yellow line, which he noticed when he drove recently on 80th Street from 34th to 30th avenues N. Schleich noticed that the yellow center line on 80th seems to have tip-toed over just a bit from its previous position.
"It moved more into the southbound lane, which gave the northbound lane a wider lane. I told my wife that it looked like a bike lane, or parking, may be added. What's the story?"
The city's Frederick confirmed that the centerline has been moved to accommodate on-street parking.
"We found that the roadway was wide enough to support on-street parking while still maintaining two-way traffic. The extra parking spaces will provide for overflow parking from special events held at the park, helping to keep it out of the residential areas," Frederick wrote in an e-mail.
Please e-mail Dr. Delay at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions.