Parents of students who attend Pinellas Preparatory Academy charter school, which moved this year into its current space on Belcher Road at the northwest corner of Ulmerton Road, contacted the Doc recently to express concern about student safety because of errant behavior of motorists. Parents say that some southbound motorists, in order to avoid being stopped by the traffic signal at the intersection, are veering off Belcher and cutting through the school's parking lot at high speeds, endangering the kids walking through the area on their way to school.
The public school, which operates from 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., has an enrollment of 300 students in grades 4 through 8, which means there are many small children on foot in the area before and after school. Combine that with motorists in a hurry to get to work, and we have a recipe for a tragedy.
Jeanenne Teed, a member of the school's board of directors, said she fears for the kids' safety because of the increasing volume and speed of vehicles racing to cut through the school's property and then exiting onto westbound Ulmerton.
"We asked law enforcement to do something about it, but we were told that drivers who are stopped claim they're cutting through to go to CVS or McDonald's, so it's not easy for law enforcement to ticket drivers," Teed said.
The school's parking lot connects to a driveway that separates CVS and McDonald's. (A call I made to the Sheriff's Office was not returned.)
The school's principal, Curtis Fuller, said he has asked for installation of school zone signs on the road but was turned down by Largo city employees because such signs would interfere with the heavy flow of rush-hour traffic on Belcher.
Another problem, Fuller said, is that Belcher is a county road and Ulmerton is a state road, so he has been shuttled back and forth between city and county agencies.
We spoke with Bernard Buxton-Tetteh, an engineer with Largo's Public Works Department.
Buxton-Tetteh said that slowing traffic to 15 mph on Belcher via a school crossing zone would create a major traffic management problem because of the traffic volume and the school's proximity to the signal at the intersection.
"But we will look into it and find out what the law allows," he said, regarding the possible installation of signs that at least alert motorists that a school is in the area. The larger issue, Buxton-Tetteh said, is one for law enforcement to address.
Here is a rundown of a few road work projects scheduled around the county this week:
• Bayside Bridge: northbound lane closures during bridge repairs.
• Bear Creek Bridge (Mango Avenue S at Bamboo Drive S): temporary delays and lane closures as bridge replacement project continues.
• 95th Street N and Alston Drive: storm drainage repairs.
• Mehlenbacher Road (Clearwater-Largo Road to Indian Rocks Road): ditch cleaning.
• Park Street from Tyrone Boulevard to Ninth Avenue: temporary delays for the ongoing sidewalk construction project.
• 28th Street N (118th Avenue N to Gandy Boulevard): ditch cleaning.
• 113th Street N (106th Avenue N to 110th Avenue N): sidewalk repairs.
• Lake Seminole bridge (97th Street N to Seminole Boulevard): eastbound lane closures and temporary delays during the painting of center walls of the bridge.
Please e-mail Dr. Delay at [email protected] to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions.