Some impatient motorists have been asking recently why the new northbound Interstate 275 exit overpass that takes traffic west over Roosevelt Boulevard onto 118th Avenue can't be put into service now, even though the new ramps are not quite completed to the final merge.
One reader wrote: "From what I can determine … the ramp itself is already set to merge with the existing I-275 southbound exit ramp traffic and meet at the traffic light. Are they not opening it because they fear too much instant popularity and a backlog at the existing traffic light?"
These questions have been fueled in part by the presence of new exit signs indicating the 118th Avenue option for northbound I-275 traffic. As several readers have pointed out, although they technically indicate the possibility of reaching 118th Avenue, that route is circuitous and not clearly marked, which generates confusion. Some have suggested that if the Department of Transportation was not ready to open the ramp, it should have kept the exit sign under wraps.
John McShaffrey of the DOT told us our readers guessed correctly: The main reason for keeping the overpass closed is concern about traffic at the 118th Avenue signal.
The two-lane road from the new bridge will merge with existing traffic coming from southbound I-275, which currently leads to the signal at 118th Avenue and 31st Court. That will be reduced to a single lane to make room to connect the new road that will merge traffic with westbound 118th, avoiding the signal. The good news is that the contractor is planning to open both bridges in January or February, giving I-275 motorists uninterrupted access to westbound 118th Avenue.
Regarding the overhead signs, McShaffrey said temporarily covering the signs presents safety risks.
"Large tarps deteriorate, require maintenance and can come loose in high winds. Considering that the I-275 Exit 30 ramp does and always did lead to 118th Avenue via Roosevelt to 28th Street (i.e., this is how motorists have always traveled to 118th Avenue from northbound I-275), covering up the I-275 signs was not considered prudent," McShaffrey wrote.
The contractor has, however, covered the 118th Avenue sign at the ramp split to the new, closed bridge over Roosevelt.
Gigantic pipes will gradually disappear
Reader Ursula Stenzel wrote to ask about the status of construction at Bryan Dairy and Starkey roads, and in particular, the gigantic pipes on the side of the road.
"For months now there have been huge concrete pipes stored on the side by Applebee's Restaurant. The grass has grown around them and it is a nuisance when walking or riding my bike, as well as it is an eyesore."
Pete Yauch, Pinellas County's director of public works, told us the project is in preparation for the widening of Bryan Dairy to the east of this intersection. The pipes are for the construction of a stormwater treatment pond northwest of the intersection.
"The pipes are being temporarily stored at this location and are progressively being installed underground, as utilities (i.e., telephone conduits, water lines, etc.) are relocated out of the way. It is anticipated that construction will be completed by the end of February 2011," Yauch wrote.
Regarding the road widening, the county is accepting bids, which means we can expect to see work start next summer.
Trolleys will offer free service during bowl
Red Open Air Trolleys will provide free shuttle service during the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl at Tropicana Field on Tuesday. The shuttle will begin making loops at 7 p.m. and continue every 10 minutes or so up to one hour after the game. Hop on at Second Street between Central Avenue and First Avenue S under the pedestrian bridge or at 16th Street just south of Third Avenue S. Download a route map online at StPeteTrolley.com.
Please e-mail Dr. Delay at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions.