Anyone who travels from the south end of the county to North Pinellas via U.S. 19 knows that there has been a lot of change and improvement. Commute times are much shorter than they were a few years ago, but diminished access due to closed medians frustrates some motorists. If you miss your turn, you must drive a long way in order to turn around. This has enhanced safety, experts say, but not everyone is convinced, especially business owners.
Reader Devon Preidis asked us for the 411 on U.S. 19's traffic flow configuration:
"What is the story with the left turn lanes on U.S. 19 N between Sunset Point Road and Countryside Boulevard? If I recall, some time ago the left turn lane used to be open, and to prevent accidents and traffic jams, they put in the median with nice left turn lanes. Not long after they completed that, they closed them all off with semipermanent rubber traffic barriers. Once you pass Sunset Point driving north you cannot turn left to get to any business establishment until you exit at Countryside Boulevard and make a U-turn. Likewise, heading south, once you pass Countryside you have to drive to Sunset Point, exit and do a U-turn and head back north. … What's the plan behind all of this?"
We asked Kris Carson of the state Department of Transportation, who said the move to change the configuration started with the Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization, whose members expressed concern for drivers entering traffic on U.S. 19 between Sunset Point Road and Enterprise Road.
"The MPO was concerned that drivers trying to make left, right or U-turns at the median openings were having a difficult time finding enough gaps in the oncoming traffic that would allow them to turn safely. The five median openings are at McCormick Drive, Dimmitt Motorcar Collection, Dimmitt Chevrolet, First Avenue and the Cypress Point Shopping Center. To address the concerns of the MPO, the FDOT conducted a study that included reviewing accident data and existing traffic volumes. Computer modeling was used to analyze possible solutions," Carson wrote.
Carson said the DOT's study determined that closing the five medians would improve safety.
In planning the U.S. 19 upgrade, the DOT concluded that the ultimate configuration of this segment will include frontage roads, similar to other segments of U.S. 19 that have already been reconstructed. The configuration includes permanently closing all five median openings to safely move traffic. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2012.
16th St. and 62nd Ave. NE
Untrimmed trees block view, but the city's on it
Reader Jack Lyons alerted us to a potentially dangerous visual obstruction at 16th Street and 62nd Avenue NE: A new sidewalk has been installed on 62nd Avenue NE across from Shore Acres Elementary. The city also has planted about a dozen trees there that need to be trimmed, so when southbound 16th Street traffic intersects at 62nd Avenue NE, the trees obstruct the view of approaching traffic from the left.
"You can creep your way out there, but now that the school is closed for the summer, these cars are moving at a rapid rate, and sooner or later, someone is going to pay the price for landscaping,'' Lyons wrote in an e-mail.
We're happy to report that we alerted Mike Frederick, St. Petersburg's manager of neighborhood transportation, who told us that the matter will be attended to pronto.
Thank you, Dad
Happy Father's Day to my super-cool dad, who refused to allow me behind the wheel of my 1974 powder blue Opel GT until I demonstrated that I knew how to check the oil and change a tire.
Doc Delay is on Twitter! Get news from the road at www.twitter.com/DocDelay. E-mail Dr. Delay at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions. Questions may be edited for space and clarity.