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Changes under way at deadly I-375 on-ramp in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — More than a month after a driver smashed into a barrier wall and plummeted to his death off Interstate 375, the Florida Department of Transportation has made several noticeable changes to the elevated on-ramp critics called unsafe.

In the past two weeks, speed limits of 50 mph on I-375 were upgraded from recommended to required, said FDOT spokeswoman Marian Scorza. Two new speed limit signs were installed before the ramp's curve. Twenty reflectors were placed on top of the ramp's barriers, augmenting small strips in the walls.

More changes are to come, Scorza said. Within three weeks, the number of reflectors bordering and dividing the exit lanes will double, from 20 feet apart to 10. The DOT hopes the exit's increased visibility will decrease accidents; three drivers have died on the 1.2-mile road in eight years, all of them after sundown, the St. Petersburg Times reported last month.

Critics told the Times poor signs about the ramp and an outdated design contributed to the danger. State officials disagreed.

"It's basically not an issue," DOT district roadway engineer Britton Hardy said last month. "If it were a problem, we would have to figure out some way to solve it."

The recent changes are not an acknowledgment that there were problems, Scorza said.

Motorists take note: Changes to the exit's speed limit may mean stricter enforcement there, said Sgt. Steve Gaskins of the Florida Highway Patrol.

Drew Harwell can be reached at dharwell@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3386.

Changes under way at deadly I-375 on-ramp in St. Petersburg 04/16/09 [Last modified: Thursday, April 16, 2009 10:58pm]
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