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Dr. Delay: The end is near! (for U.S. 19 project in Pinellas Park)

Here's an update on the progress of the Florida Department of Transportation's U.S. 19 improvement project in Pinellas Park.

The construction of two new interchanges will carry U.S. 19 traffic nonstop over 110th and 118th avenues. Two six-lane bridges are expected to relieve traffic congestion on 19 at the intersections of 110th and 118th as well as move east/west traffic along 110th and 118th more smoothly.

Also in the works: one-way frontage roads parallel to U.S. 19 providing access to local businesses and residences along the corridor. A single left turn lane will be added to 110th Avenue and dual left turn lanes will be added at 118th Avenue.

Although the project is close to completion — this fall is the official word — navigating the construction remains a bit of a challenge sometimes.

What should motorists expect in the coming weeks? Utility work on 118th Avenue from 44th Court N to 31st Court N should wrap up in mid September. In the meantime, the eastbound curb lane is closed from 8 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. on weekdays and from 4 p.m. to 10 a.m. on weekends. The DOT assures us that all existing lanes will remain open during the day with work requiring lane closures scheduled between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Road sensors often do need careful adjustment

We've all experienced the frustration of sitting and waiting for what seems like an eternity for a traffic signal to change. What makes it more aggravating is when there's no opposing traffic for as far as the eye can see and you know your vehicle's tires have made contact with the signal sensor on the roadway. So while sitting there waiting one ponders this mystery: How heavy must a vehicle be to activate sensors beneath the pavement?

Reader Karen Jurson, who rides a motorcycle to work, asked us to look into it for her.

"Dear Doc," she wrote, "I've wanted to write you for some time, but getting a ticket for making a U-turn has finally inspired me! Many traffic light sensors do not pick up motorcycles. I want to thank the city of Gulfport for making all their lights work for bikes. But I could wait for eons at the intersection of Starkey and Park Boulevard. My shift is midnight to 8 a.m. and there's not a lot of traffic around at that time, so I made an illegal U-turn (and I've done it many times). I paid the price — $151 — but the lights don't work for bikes!"

We asked St. Petersburg's traffic signal coordinator, Bill Foster, to educate us about this weighty question. He conferred with the folks at the DOT because the vehicle sensors in St. Petersburg are used by traffic signal departments statewide. The consensus is that in most cases, motorcycles are able to trigger the sensors that work by reacting to the metal in cars or motorcycles, but wear and tear on the roads can interfere with this.

"Changes in the roadway can cause the sensors to lose their sensitivity," Foster said, adding that if his office is made aware of specific locations, he will look into it and increase the sensitivity of the equipment in question if necessary. Adjusting the sensors is delicate business requiring surgical precision, Foster said, because if the sensitivity is increased too much, vehicles in adjacent lanes can also be detected, which could cause havoc with the traffic signal operation.

Let us know if you've run across a nonresponsive signal. In the meantime, avoid those illegal and expensive U-turns.

Until next week, happy and safe motoring!

Please e-mail Dr. Delay at to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions.

Dr. Delay: The end is near! (for U.S. 19 project in Pinellas Park) 08/28/09 [Last modified: Friday, August 28, 2009 8:03pm]
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