The "smart signs" on the Howard Frankland Bridge are pretty cool: They let motorists know how long it should take to get from point A to point B, and the value of broadcasting Amber Alerts is without question. But the signs, also referred to as dynamic digital displays, create anxiety for the Doc, especially when they say there's an accident up ahead. There's no option for an alternate route once we're on the bridge, so I'd rather not know and just get there when I get there.
Also, I admit to being easily distracted on the road, so less is more in terms of constant messaging about travel time. It tempts me to look at the clock to see whether the estimated times displayed are in fact correct while traveling 70 mph. Not a good combination.
Reader Scott Stolz has been thinking about electronic road signs, too. He wrote the Doc to ask about the new signs that have been installed on McMullen-Booth Road. Stolz wrote:
"Someone spent a lot of money putting up big electronic signs every few miles on McMullen-Booth Road beginning at the south end of the Bayside Bridge. Are these ever going to be turned on, or will it just be more wasted tax money?"
The primary function of these signs is to alert motorists of unusual conditions, such as accidents or other significant delays, and to communicate other urgent information, such as Amber Alerts about missing children or Silver Alerts in the cases of missing elderly.
Norman Jester, Pinellas County's signal systems supervisor, told us that the new message signs along McMullen-Booth Road and East Lake Road have been operating about a month and have already been used for those purposes.
"The signs we have on U.S. 19 are also being used during off-peak time periods to display safety messages such as 'Buckle Up For Safety' or 'Don't Drink and Drive,' and we will most likely do the same for these new signs," Jester said.
The signs will not always display information, which is intentional, Jester said, because some studies have shown that in locations where nonemergency messages are displayed too often, it can distract motorists or reduce the urgency of the emergency messages. The signs will probably be used more often, albeit with discretion, and Jester said that in the meantime, "No message means good news for you."
U.S. 19 N off-ramp
New layer of asphalt smooths out rough ride
We reported a few weeks ago about concerns from readers who commute to North Pinellas regarding the deterioration of the road bed on the U.S. 19 (northbound) off-ramp to Countryside Boulevard and Countryside Mall in Clearwater. The right turn lane near the bottom of that ramp had developed a series of deep dips in the pavement. One reader wrote: "If somebody hit that series of bumps in the dark going at any speed at all, they could lose control."
We passed the message along to the state Department of Transportation, and we're pleased to report that a fresh layer of asphalt makes for a much smoother and safer ride. Wish we could get the same response for some of our ramshackle county roads.
PSTA Summer Haul Pass
Youths without wheels can ride bus all summer
Summer is nearly here, and that means, among other things, that older kids without their own wheels may be at loose ends for transportation. PSTA's annual Youth Summer Haul Pass is available again. The $35 pass allows kids ages 18 and under unlimited bus rides from May 15 through Aug. 31. The summer pass can be purchased at PSTA hubs, online or through the mail. Get information at psta.net/haulpass.html or call (727) 540-1900.
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