Some road mysteries in the area are more challenging than others because many of the busiest corridors are not maintained by the cities. Some streets in St. Petersburg are maintained by the county and the state, and some are divided up with sections managed by a combination of the city, state and county. Some examples of this are 38th Avenue N, which is partly maintained by the county (the part that's currently under construction) and 22nd Avenue S, which is partly under state Department of Transportation management.
Another example is Central Avenue, which is divided between the city and the county, making finding the source of narrow white "gores" painted on Central between 60th and 61st streets a bit frustrating. The gores look to some as if they may be bike lane indicators because they are closer to the curb than to the center of the road. To others they look like they might be some sort of bus lane. What are they for and why are they there? We wondered.
After a bit of back and forth between the Doc, the city and the county folks, we learned that the gores are part of a study conducted by the Federal Highway Administration. The markings are lane dividers that were paid for and installed by the city, according to Mike Frederick, the city's director of neighborhood transportation.
The purpose of the study was to determine the impact of the wider lane markings by measuring the separation distance between vehicles as they approached the crosswalk.
According to Frederick, many pedestrian crashes occur because motorists traveling in the center lane pass a vehicle in the curb lane and the pedestrians, not seeing the oncoming vehicle, walk into its path.
"The experimentation was to determine if these painted dividers would cause motorists to separate enough, so that a pedestrian walking out from the curb would have enough distance and time to be able to see the oncoming vehicle before stepping out into its path," Frederick said.
The final report isn't available, but field observations indicated that the dividers increased the distance between vehicles, which is a good thing, Frederick said. Will we have these new lane dividers all over town once the report is published? Stay tuned.
Gandy merge lane was shortened for safety
Several I-275 commuters who use the eastbound Gandy Boulevard exit have contacted us recently about the dicey merging configuration. Reader Paul Mathis wrote: "When heading north on I-275 and taking the Gandy exit east, traffic is forced to merge with eastbound Gandy traffic. There is a partial lane, blocked off. If that was a full lane that extended all the way down to Frontage Road, it would give drivers a longer merge opportunity, and would also cut down on the number of drivers needing to merge, because a lot of them merge and then take Frontage Road. It doesn't make sense."
We passed Mathis' query along to Kris Carson of the DOT and Carson said in an e-mail that the lane length was determined by the DOT in response to persistent unsafe driving habits of motorists.
"Probably 10 years ago, in response to a chronic high speed merge/weave crash problem, we shortened the merge lane to a more typical length, separating the ramp merge area from the beginning of the right turn lane for the signal for the Frontage Road. Prior to this change, traffic ... would make a high speed lane change at the same location where traffic was entering the right turn lane for the Frontage Road signal. Therefore, it was safer to have these two maneuvers separated at two different locations," Carson wrote.
Until next week, happy and safe motoring!
Please e-mail Dr. Delay at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions.