Some intersections around town are a tad harrowing because of factors such as traffic speed and volume, and lack of protected turn arrows. Aggressive motorists who push others to make turns they might not be comfortable executing doesn't help either.
One particular intersection that has bothered the Doc also has gotten the attention of reader Noel Hines, who wrote:
"Hi Doc, my concern is with the intersection of 31st Street and 54th Avenue S. Making an eastbound (left) turn from southbound traffic onto 54th Avenue S is very dangerous because of the poor design of the median. I have seen several drivers (especially at night) run over the median because it extends out too far into the intersection. Perhaps the city can look into this 'accident waiting to happen.' "
Mike Frederick, the city's manager of neighborhood transportation, told us that the median has recently been redesigned to make it more accessible and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. This was necessary because the pedestrian crosswalk cuts across the median.
"The main issue here is the width of the intersection for southbound/left-turning traffic, as they have to traverse 120 feet to meet up with the in-bound lanes for eastbound. What is needed are radial skip lines to direct these motorists to the correct lanes," Frederick noted in an e-mail. Frederick said he will look into having these guides installed to help motorists maneuver through the intersection.
Tierra Verde speeds set by standard formula
Reader Connie Rahija shared her concerns about differing speed limits on the beaches.
"I would like to address the 45 mph speed limit on Tierra Verde along the Pinellas Bayway leading to Fort De Soto," she wrote. "We all know this is a heavily traveled road, but what doesn't seem apparent to the many drivers headed to the beach is that we are a small community with year-round residents who cherish the peace and solitude of living here. I don't understand why the speed limit is so high when you cannot travel through all the other beach communities at speeds higher than 35 mph (such as Pass-a-Grille, St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island, Madeira Beach, etc.). The Pinellas Bayway is lined with condos and townhomes … and at any given time residents are out walking, jogging and riding their bikes."
We asked the Florida Department of Transportation to respond and heard back from Kevin Dunn, who is responsible for pavement markings and signs in our area. Dunn said the DOT cannot set speed limits arbitrarily — they use the nationally recognized standard for setting speed limits, which works like this:
"We conduct a speed survey using a radar gun taking a sampling of approximately 140 vehicles and then determine the closest speed within 3 mph that 85 percent of the vehicles sampled are traveling. The speed limit is normally the closest 5 mph increment below the 85th percentile speed determination. So basically, a majority of drivers pick a speed they feel comfortable driving along a particular roadway section, and that is the speed limit that is then legally posted," Dunn said.
Because it is a four-lane divided road with minimal traffic volume by their standards and few conflicts from other vehicles, Dunn added, drivers feel comfortable traveling at 45 mph on their way to and from Fort De Soto. While the Doc can certainly appreciate the argument that the area is residential, I think a 35 mph drive from the Pinellas Bayway to Fort De Soto seems awfully slow.
One final note: Dunn said a speed study has not been conducted on this stretch of road in several years, and the DOT will do one to verify the current posted speed limit. We should have an update in a few weeks.
Doc Delay is on twitter! Get news from the road at twitter.com/DocDelay. E-mail Dr. Delay at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your concerns, comments and questions. Questions selected for publication may be edited for space and clarity.