Parents of children who attend Madeira Beach Fundamental have expressed concern about the safety of vehicles and pedestrians, mostly students of the elementary school who cross at Duhme Road and the Tom Stuart Causeway.
While crossing guards, parents and faculty do their best to safeguard the kids, an increase in the number of westbound vehicles executing U-turns at the intersection presents some problems.
What's most confounding is that the problem U-turners are parents looking for a shortcut during the morning rush.
There is a left-turn arrow for westbound traffic that leads the flow onto school property, but many parents blow through the intersection, then make a U-turn and enter school property through a side gate, apparently to avoid the structured car circle established to safely drop off and pick up their kids. Because this gated entrance functions as a parking access for the school staff, the gate must remain open until school starts each morning.
U-turns have resulted in a number of close calls involving parents using the left-turn arrow into the school nearly being hit by U-turners. Add to this the fact that children are on foot trying to cross the street.
Ironing out transportation issues, especially at newly minted fundamental schools where many children are dropped off and picked up by parents, is not unusual. But common sense should prevail. Drivers should make it a policy to not execute U-turns in front of schools, and keep in mind that there is a 15 mph speed limit in a specified zone during dropoff and release times.
Improving safety around Madeira Beach has been a collaborative effort between the Florida Department of Transportation and Pinellas County Public Works. Adjustments have been made to the traffic signal, and work on crosswalks will be completed this week.
SR 679 will stay 45 mph
In response to a recent column about speed limits on State Road 679 through Tierra Verde, the state DOT recently conducted a study to determine whether there was a need to lower the 45 mph limit to 35, which is standard in nearby Pass-a-Grille, St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island and Madeira Beach.
Kevin Dunn of the DOT told us that the department uses the nationally recognized standard for setting speed limits, which involves conducting a speed survey using a radar gun taking a sampling of approximately 140 vehicles.
"We then determine the closest speed within 3 mph that 85 percent of the vehicles sampled are traveling. So basically, a majority of drivers pick a speed they feel comfortable driving along a particular roadway section, and that is the speed limit that is then legally posted. We cannot set speed limits arbitrarily," Dunn said.
The agency studied the four-lane divided roadway at two locations. The average running speed was 48 mph at 12th Street and 47 mph at Yacht Club Circle, which confirms that the posted 45 mph speed limit is correct for this section of SR 679, according to the standards.
"We are therefore not recommending any changes to the posted speed limit at this time," Dunn wrote in an e-mail last week.
Don't sleep and drive
Law enforcement will be out in force during the holiday weekend. While they will be looking to snag drunken drivers, they will also be on the lookout for sleepy drivers. The DOT has launched a public education program to address drowsy driving and asked us to remind readers that fatigue and drowsiness impair ability to safely operate motor vehicles, which puts you and your passengers at risk and also endangers everyone else on the road. For information about drowsy driving, visit www.dot.state.fl.us/safety.
Gulf Blvd. lanes to close
If you plan to head to the beach this week, be prepared for intermittent lane closures on Gulf Boulevard between 144th and 174th avenues from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Friday as workers add pavement markings.
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