Thursday, December 14, 2017
Transportation

Clearwater planners envision a prettier U.S. 19 corridor

CLEARWATER — Behold U.S. 19, all sprawl and strip malls: Is any road so ugly, so notorious, so hair-pullingly frustrating?

The stop-and-go roadway is getting a $200 million makeover through Clearwater that will transform it by 2015 into a six-lane, limited-access freeway with new overpasses. But what about the muss of strip malls on both sides?

The answer, city planners say, is to create a plan to encourage redevelopment along the highway.

"This is not a time for the city to sit around and wait," said Michael Delk, the city's planning director. The current road construction, he said, "is the painful part of it. We're planning for the other side. What can we do to get that pain in the rearview mirror?"

The City Council will discuss Monday whether to approve a $130,000 study by HDR Engineering that could guide the urban design along about eight miles of U.S. 19, from Belleair to Curlew roads.

The goal would be to eventually replace much of that roadway's strip-center fringe, which Delk called underused and "functionally obsolete."

Shops and restaurants would be centered at retail hubs, like the Westfield Countryside Mall on Countryside Boulevard and the Clearwater Mall on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard.

Between those hubs, flexible zoning regulations would allow for construction of mid-rise office buildings, residential complexes and multilevel hotels.

Where once there were miles of strip centers, planners envision the development of dense "destination points." Delk said, "People are going to go there to get there."

The long-term plan won't happen overnight, and only those watching city code books will see the plan take shape. The plan is an exercise in optimism: Private developers would have to buy in to complete the transformation.

The plan also could see resistance from some of the current denizens of U.S. 19, who have watched as ongoing construction confused customers and disrupted business.

City officials this week launched a website (www.myus19plan.com) to receive residents' suggestions for change along U.S. 19.

And the city will host focus groups next week for neighborhood and retail groups along U.S. 19, including car dealerships (at Grimaldi's Pizzeria) and hotels and entertainment venues (at Celebration Station).

Pitched since 1990, the reinvention of U.S. 19 was mostly stalled until 2009, when nearly $45 million in federal stimulus funds kicked work into gear.

U.S. 19 had long drawn laments for its chaotic traffic, incessant stoplights and crash-heavy crossroads, which made it one of the most dangerous roads in the country. Drivers riffed off its notoriety with bumper stickers: "Pray for Me — I drive U.S. 19."

But with roadwork under way now in Clearwater, city officials see the highway has potential to attract redevelopment. Over the last decade, Delk said, the U.S. 19 corridor was one of the only areas in this built-out city to increase in population.

The next few years, Delk said, will be "pretty painful, pretty difficult." But he added that the transition will give business leaders and landowners more flexibility, not less. "This is all about options, not restrictions," Delk said. "We're going to go out now and try to figure out what the future looks like."

Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 445-4170 or [email protected]

Comments
Dr. Delay: St. Petersburg road projects for bikes and wastewater

Dr. Delay: St. Petersburg road projects for bikes and wastewater

What is the city of St. Petersburg doing on First Avenue S between Pa sadena Avenue and Park Street? They have installed a concrete bumper in the middle of the road for some reason. Also on Ninth Avenue N, they are installing something from 71st Stre...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Express lanes set to open on Veterans. They’re free -- for now.

Express lanes set to open on Veterans. They’re free -- for now.

TAMPA — Drivers on the Veterans Expressway will gain an extra lane from Gunn Highway to Hillsborough Avenue starting Saturday.But there’s a catch: Once drivers enter the lane, they won’t be able to leave it — not until a designated exit about six mil...
Published: 12/08/17
Pasco group picks untried intersection design to ease U.S. 41/SR 54 congestion

Pasco group picks untried intersection design to ease U.S. 41/SR 54 congestion

LAND O’LAKES – A citizens group says a better way to move vehicles along a congested central Pasco corridor could involve a never-been-tried intersection design that diverts turning traffic onto parallel frontage roads.The citizens group, known as th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Northbound Sunshine Skyway lanes to close for running event in March

Northbound Sunshine Skyway lanes to close for running event in March

ST. PETERSBURG — The Sunshine Skyway bridge will shut down on a Sunday morning in March for a running race that is expected to draw up to 7,000 participants.The Armed Forces Families Foundation announced the event, dubbed the "Skyway 10k Saluting Mil...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17
Dr. Delay: Confusing striping at Ulmerton and Roosevelt is temporary

Dr. Delay: Confusing striping at Ulmerton and Roosevelt is temporary

Heading east where Roosevelt Boulevard joins Ulmerton Road, the inside lane of Roosevelt is confusing where the roads merge. If a driver uses the lane striping on their right as their guide, they are in one lane, and if they stay to the left, they ar...
Published: 12/05/17
Today: Pasco, Hernando residents can meet on transportation

Today: Pasco, Hernando residents can meet on transportation

Pasco and Hernando residents will get to find out what transportation projects are in the works for their communities on Tuesday evening.PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Long-awaited Tampa Bay transit study identifies five corridors for future transportation syste...
Published: 12/05/17

Workers to drill under Gandy Boulevard, partially closing lane Monday through Friday

TAMPA — An eastbound lane on West Gandy Boulevard at Church Avenue will partially close from Monday through Friday for drilling related to the Selmon Extension.Workers will use a geotechnical drill to examine the soil under the road, according to pro...
Published: 12/02/17
St. Petersburg to replace 40th Avenue Bridge; cones stay in the meantime

St. Petersburg to replace 40th Avenue Bridge; cones stay in the meantime

ST. PETERSBURG — Those traversing the 40th Avenue Bridge, the main span connecting Shore Acres and Venetian Isles with the Old Northeast and Northeast Park neighborhoods, can expect to see orange cones barricading the center of the bridge for t...
Updated one month ago
Dr. Delay: Signal timing meant to move traffic, not frustrate drivers, county says

Dr. Delay: Signal timing meant to move traffic, not frustrate drivers, county says

What is going on with the traffic lights on 66th Street? The way they are timed could be causing road rage.Going either north or south on 66th from 102nd Avenue N to 54th Avenue N, it used to work like this: The light would stop both lanes, those tra...
Updated one month ago
Dr. Delay: Pinellas traffic officials to tweak signals near Largo Mall

Dr. Delay: Pinellas traffic officials to tweak signals near Largo Mall

The Largo Mall entrance stoplight on Ulmerton Road just east of Seminole Boulevard has been causing traffic delays on eastbound Ulmerton at Seminole Boulevard. It appears that the light at the Largo Mall entrance is being triggered on-demand by folks...
Updated one month ago