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Crosswalk styles on Gulf Boulevard may soon become more consistent

Bill Vear crosses Gulf Boulevard near the Beachcomber Beach Resort Hotel in St. Pete Beach. The crosswalk there is equipped with reflective flags to help pedestrians gain the attention of drivers. Crosswalk features vary from municipality to municipality along the boulevard.

SCOTT KEELER | TIMES

Bill Vear crosses Gulf Boulevard near the Beachcomber Beach Resort Hotel in St. Pete Beach. The crosswalk there is equipped with reflective flags to help pedestrians gain the attention of drivers. Crosswalk features vary from municipality to municipality along the boulevard.

I drive to work on Gulf Boulevard and find it confusing that there is no consistency in the pedestrian crosswalks. Some have flashing lights, others don't, and some flash all the time while others flash only when activated by a pedestrian. As a driver, my eyes and brain would be more attuned if warning lights were consistent.

Like many of the main drags in Pinellas County, 15-mile Gulf Boulevard winds its way through more than one municipality and goes by more than one name. At the southern end, its official name is State Road 699 but most of us know it as Gulf Boulevard or Blind Pass Road as it snakes though St. Pete Beach on its way toward Sunset Beach. Then it reverts to Gulf Boulevard, taking motorists through Treasure Island, Madeira Beach, Redington Beach, North Redington Beach, Redington Shores, Indian Shores, Indian Rocks Beach — you get the picture.

Kris Carson of the state Department of Transportation told us there is an effort under way to try to standardize crosswalks along Gulf Boulevard so they include the same features such as ladder-style crosswalk striping, raised median refuge islands (where the crosswalk is angled through the island in such a way that pedestrians are facing oncoming traffic). Other features include solar-powered flashing beacons activated by pedestrians and fluorescent yellow-green pedestrian crossing signs with a down arrow on the beacon poles as well as signs that warn of a pedestrian crossing ahead. We don't have a target completion date as of yet for this project but will keep you updated.

I (recently) had to drive from Pass-a-Grille to downtown St. Pete. Because the eastbound lane of the Pinellas Bayway bridge was closed from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., I had to travel via the Corey Causeway over to First Avenue S. The journey was further compounded by the fact Gulf Boulevard is one lane from near the Sirata Beach Resort north to Gulf Winds Drive.

What this means is that traffic backs up from the Don CeSar hotel north and it's a bumper-to-bumper crawl the entire way. Why don't they do like they do when work is being done on one lane of a highway and have flaggers out stopping traffic for a short time for both directions? If this were done on the Pinellas Bayway, allowing one direction of traffic to traverse the bridge for, say, five minutes and then switch to allow the other direction to go through?

Part of the problem is that we have two projects in close proximity that are conspiring to challenge the patience of even the most serene driver. First, we have the ongoing Pinellas Bayway replacement project. Second, the city of St. Pete Beach has a project under way between 55th Avenue and Gulf Winds. This work is to replace the sewer main pipe. The replacement project is considered an emergency at this point, and work is on the fast track in hopes of preventing another break and resulting backups of wastewater plus interruption of service. The project, which began Sept. 4, is estimated to take between six and eight weeks and work will be done from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each weekday.

The DOT says switching concrete pouring activity on the Pinellas Bayway project to nighttime work as a means to keep traffic flowing during the day is not a good option, mostly because the noise and lights would probably drive nearby residents out of their minds. So moving major work from daylight hours to nighttime is not a viable solution.

And while the reader's suggestion of flagging traffic in alternating directions makes sense, this was unsuccessfully attempted early on in the Bayway project work. The alternating traffic flow was abandoned because traffic backed up so quickly that vehicles were sometimes stuck idling in excess of an hour. The DOT plans to continue with the daily closures for now, but Carson says it is looking at other ways of getting the work accomplished.

Email Dr. Delay at docdelay@gmail.com to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions or follow Dr. Delay on Twitter @AskDrDelay.

Crosswalk styles on Gulf Boulevard may soon become more consistent 09/15/12 [Last modified: Saturday, September 15, 2012 4:30am]
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