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Dr. Delay: Seeing red on Fourth Street: Why not synchronize lights?

Reader Anne M. Fagan dropped us a note recently to share the frustrations of her daily commute along a major St. Petersburg corridor. "The good news is that I have a job. After a year and a half of being unemployed, I was hired by a wonderful organization at Fourth Street and Gandy. The bad news — I now have the 'pleasure' of traveling Fourth Street twice a day from 11th to 100th Avenue. By my fuzzy math calculations, there is one traffic light per half-mile, even though some are closer together, and some are further apart. None of these are synchronized, and the lights at 30th, 34th and 72nd avenues ensure that there is no chance for a smooth flow of traffic for the drive. I know this is a dream, but it sure would be nice if some effort were made to synchronize these lights."

We shared Fagan's note with Bill Foster, of the city's traffic signal operations. Foster told us he drove the route several times to check the equipment and encountered just one major stop along the route, at 38th Avenue N.

"We use a computer program that allows us to create a diagram that shows which traffic signals will have green lights and which traffic signals will have red lights for motorists driving through that portion of roadway,'' he said. "It is very easy to design a timing plan where all the vehicles traveling in one direction will get nothing but green lights as though the street was a one-way street. However, vehicles traveling in the opposite direction on this street usually will receive red light after red light."

The challenge is creating a plan that will require the fewest number of stops for vehicles traveling in both directions.

Foster says that during the morning rush hour, for example, he can't give priority to northbound traffic because at that time lots of cars are traveling south into downtown. So as a result of trying to benefit both directions, there is an unavoidable stop for northbound traffic at 38th Avenue N. If that stop were eliminated, vehicles traveling south would encounter a red light at 38th Avenue, where they currently receive a green light.

"With a two-way street with balanced traffic, I try to find a timing plan that will benefit vehicles traveling both directions equally, but some stops are unavoidable," Foster said.

St. Pete Beach medians requested by residents

Reader Ron McKeska of Tierra Verde asked us to fill him in on the two dozen medians being installed along Gulf Boulevard in St. Pete Beach. "They appear to be an added distraction to motorists attempting to make left or right turns from establishments along the way, not to mention the cost that must be involved," he said.

Kris Carson of the state Department of Transportation told us the medians are being installed in response to requests from residents. The project was discussed in detail during a public meeting in July.

The initial estimated cost was $1 million, but Carson said the actual cost is $537,000 for the project, which is on schedule to be finished in the spring.

DOT raises a toast to sober driving

The state DOT has released its eighth annual collection of nonalcoholic drink recipes gathered from restaurants around the Tampa Bay area. "Recipes for the Road" intends to raise awareness about the importance of designating a sober driver and reducing DUI crashes year-round. Themed recipes include drinks for Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day and other festive occasions. See the recipe book at

Email Dr. Delay at to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions or follow Ask Dr. Delay on Facebook. Questions selected for publication may be edited for space and clarity.

Dr. Delay: Seeing red on Fourth Street: Why not synchronize lights? 12/17/11 [Last modified: Saturday, December 17, 2011 3:30am]
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