Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Transportation

Dr. Delay: Bayway SunPass lanes and off-duty trooper cars

At the Pinellas Bayway west toll plaza, there is no dedicated SunPass lane, and cars dodge left and right as they angle for the quickest lane. Sometimes, if a vehicle is in the queue for the cash lane, after the driver sees a SunPass car go through quickly in another lane, they switch lanes, often without even looking. SunPass customers are forced to jam on their brakes, almost get sideswiped, then wait for someone to fumble for their wallet. Let's please make a dedicated SunPass lane now and make the switch before the snowbirds (and extra traffic) return.

Ron Struthers

The Florida Department of Transportation's operations office has recently reviewed this issue, which has been raised by readers multiple times in the past few years. The most recent assessment found that the percentage of SunPass or electronic toll vehicles remains below the threshold of what the DOT typically sees before it moves to covert a lane to a dedicated SunPass lane configuration. This isn't surprising, considering the volume of visitors to the beaches versus full-time residents.

Jim Moulton, the DOT's director of transportation operations for District 7 said he anticipates that SunPass participation rates on the Pinellas Bayway will increase and that, although he can't predict exactly when the numbers will increase enough to warrant the conversion, advanced engineering work is already in process in order to be ready for this eventuality; the toll plaza is being evaluated to identify improvements that should be made that would prepare the way for a conversion in the future.

In the meantime, Moulton said a more detailed evaluation is in the works to improve operations and safety, as well as to make sure that the remaining cash-paying traffic at the toll plaza doesn't create any operational problems (severe backups or delays) for the area. These include signs and pavement marking improvements on the plaza approach and the merge area of the toll plaza.

Why is there a Florida Highway Patrol car stationed 24/7 at a road closure complete with barriers on the northbound U.S. 19 service road just north of Ulmerton Road? Who is paying for this?

Thomas J. Goodrich

This particular scenario is one in which an off-duty FHP trooper is employed by a construction company to act as a visual speed deterrent in road construction work zones. It makes sense that motorists who fail to take slower construction speed limits seriously, especially when workers are present, might be more motivated to do so by the presence of a law enforcement vehicle.

Sgt. Steve Gaskins of the FHP told us that when off-duty troopers are working these areas, they are required by state law to reimburse the state for usage of the vehicles in this capacity and are also required to privately insure their FHP vehicles for the periods they are working off duty.

Contact Dr. Delay at [email protected] to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions. Follow @AskDrDelay.

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