Reader David Good contacted the Doc recently with his concern about the traffic signals at the intersection of Gulf Boulevard and 75th Avenue in St. Pete Beach, and what amounts to a setup for a serious accident.
Good says that northbound traffic on the boulevard faces a jumble of signals bunched together and that the signal controlling through traffic is difficult to see because of its angle and cloudiness. The signals at this busy intersection include right- and left-turn arrows and one traditional signal in the center for through traffic. Here's the issue: Good says that motorists cannot see the light for through traffic in time to safely determine if it is red or green until they are pretty much right on it. "So people who are going straight see other cars going either right or left and I suppose they think they also have a green light and roll on through," he wrote in an e-mail.
For folks who live in the area, he said, it's probably not a problem because they are familiar with the light, but those who are not, such as tourists, are at risk for trouble.
We took a ride on Gulf Boulevard and turned at this intersection and traveled east on 75th Avenue to Blind Pass Road. Two northbound lanes at the intersection facilitate right turns. There is also a westbound left-turn lane that also allows traffic to proceed north but only if the traffic signal is green. The Florida Department of Transportation says that this is because the turning traffic at this intersection is the majority, so the intersection is configured to move the most traffic in each direction as effectively as possible.
Kris Carson of the DOT told us that to stop all turning traffic in order to provide a protected signal for northbound traffic on Gulf Boulevard crossing 75th Avenue would "result in tremendous congestion."
Carson explained that because there is also a lane for northbound through traffic on Gulf Boulevard, positioning the signal where it is — in the center — is required. Carson told us that the DOT will review the crash database for this intersection and also check the lack of visibility described by Mr. Good and confirmed by the Doc.
Putting lights in synch increases the delay
Richard Nemi, who has lived in Americana Cove for 18 years, wrote the Doc to say that the traffic light at 62nd Avenue N and First Street has been a pet peeve of his for all of those years.
"The light for 62nd Avenue stays green about three times as long as the one for First Street. With a number of churches on First Street and the amount of traffic every day, not just Sunday, it is ridiculous to sit and wait while there is no traffic on 62nd. When I come out of Americana Cove, I can see the red light, which is a good half-mile to a mile away. When I reach it, it is still red. Also, the light at Fourth Street N and 72nd Avenue is triggered to go green when someone is on 72nd. Why does it take so long to trigger even when there is no traffic on Fourth Street?"
We shared Mr. Nemi's note with Bill Foster, the city's traffic signal manager, who said that the two traffic signals are prime examples of the consequence of providing synchronized traffic signals for motorists traveling on a major street.
"Unfortunately the only way to ensure that motorists traveling on the major street have synchronized traffic signals is to control when the side street lights turn green. Doing this increases the delay for the motorist waiting on the smaller side street. The alternative is to allow the side street to turn green whenever a vehicle arrives and have no synchronization. I always tell people that it is better in the long run for the majority of motorists to provide synchronized traffic signals on the major street because the time lost by a few vehicles waiting on the side street will be made up many times over by the synchronization on the main street," Foster said.
Until next week, happy and safe motoring!
Please e-mail Dr. Delay at email@example.com to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions. Questions selected for publication may be edited for space and clarity.