Sunday, April 22, 2018
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
Free rides on PSTA and HART buses to celebrate Earth Day

Free rides on PSTA and HART buses to celebrate Earth Day

Those who use mass transit across the Tampa Bay area can ride for free on Sunday.To celebrate Earth Day, both the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) and the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) will be offering free rides on Su...
Published: 04/19/18
She calmly landed the Southwest flight and broke barriers as a fighter pilot

She calmly landed the Southwest flight and broke barriers as a fighter pilot

The pilot’s voice was calm yet focused as her plane descended with 149 people on board."Southwest 1380, we’re single engine," Tammie Jo Shults, a former fighter pilot with the U.S. Navy, said. "We have part of the aircraft missing so we’re going to n...
Published: 04/18/18
Carlton: Thanks, Gov. Scott, for the dreaded trip across Interstate 4

Carlton: Thanks, Gov. Scott, for the dreaded trip across Interstate 4

The other day I had to go to Orlando from Tampa on Interstate 4, which has to be one of the most disliked highways in Florida. And I say this as someone who learned to drive on Miami’s I-95.It turned out to be the same root canal of a trip we’ve come...
Published: 04/18/18
NTSB: Blown Southwest jet engine showed ‘metal fatigue’

NTSB: Blown Southwest jet engine showed ‘metal fatigue’

PHILADELPHIA — A preliminary examination of the blown jet engine of the Southwest Airlines plane that set off a terrifying chain of events and left a businesswoman hanging half outside a shattered window showed evidence of "metal fatigue," according ...
Published: 04/18/18
Group promoting road safety out in force on 56th Street Monday

Group promoting road safety out in force on 56th Street Monday

TEMPLE TERRACE — If all goes as planned on Monday (April 23), at least 100 people will line the sides of one of the most dangerous stretches in Hillsborough County — 56th Street between Sligh Avenue and Busch Boulevard — in an effort to get motorists...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Big dig’s big cost: Pasco tunnel idea carries $550 million price tag

Big dig’s big cost: Pasco tunnel idea carries $550 million price tag

NEW PORT RICHEY — Construction costs to tunnel under U.S. 41 in central Pasco could top a half-billion dollars, four times the projected price of building elevated lanes above the highway’s intersection with State Road 54.The cost estimate, said Comm...
Published: 04/17/18
Dr. Delay: How to find out if you qualify for a speed hump; updates on the Pinellas Bayway

Dr. Delay: How to find out if you qualify for a speed hump; updates on the Pinellas Bayway

I live in St. Pete and would like to know how I could go about getting a speed hump installed on my street. Where do I start?Manuel Reyes, St. PetersburgThe place to start would be by contacting the St. Petersburg Neighborhood Transportation Manager,...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
He got fed up with Miami traffic, so now he commutes with dolphins and pelicans

He got fed up with Miami traffic, so now he commutes with dolphins and pelicans

Parker Lake got sick of the rat race. Sick of working in a cubicle. Sick of commuting on Miami’s mean streets. Sick of being overweight from sitting at a desk or in traffic jams.So Lake quit his unfulfilling job, sold his car and moved to a house on ...
Published: 04/09/18
A sixth person killed by the high-speed Brightline train in Florida

A sixth person killed by the high-speed Brightline train in Florida

The Brightline train fatally struck a man Sunday, bringing the total killed by the train to six people since it began test runs last year.The Delray Beach Police Department announced on Twitter that a pedestrian was hit Sunday by a northbound Brightl...
Published: 04/09/18
Dr. Delay: Will the lights at 87th Avenue N and Fourth Street cause extra congestion?

Dr. Delay: Will the lights at 87th Avenue N and Fourth Street cause extra congestion?

Massive new street signals were erected at the intersection of 87th Avenue N. and Fourth Street, just four blocks north from the light-controlled intersection at 83rd Avenue N. At the same time a new WaWa store/gas station is being constructed near 8...
Updated one month ago