Is it unrealistic to expect that our tax dollars ought to, for the most part, buy us a smooth ride on the interstate? Of course, no road is going to be in prime condition every day, and heavily used roads degrade continuously.
But this is a question we've been pondering, especially because, as commuters know, some sections of Interstate 275 are in far better condition than others. Driving the smoother pavement of the recently completed upgrades in Tampa drive this fact home (groaner pun intended). The smooth roads north of St. Petersburg make the bumpy ride along I-275 from Gandy to Fifth Avenue N seem even more jarring.
In addition to the rough pavement along this corridor, footwide asphalt troughs that cross the width of the road at the start and end of every bridge/flyover segment make for plenty of clunks and bumps. One motorist observed that is seems like road crews have dug a little trench at the start and end of every bridge, and then filled it with asphalt.
We checked in with Kris Carson of the Florida Department of Transportation, who told us that the troughs are asphalt joints, and she acknowledged that although the transitions to and from the bridge or road are noticeable, DOT workers who investigated noted no detectable thumps or jolts when traveling over the joints. They will continue to monitor them.
Bayway toll plaza
Widening lane has unintended consequence
The regular backup of beach-bound traffic feeding into the toll plaza east of the Pinellas Bayway (the current construction there excluded) has some folks suggesting ideas on how to fix the problem. The Doc loves these sorts of letters from readers — notes that point out a problem and then go on to suggest a solution. One such e-mail came from Helen J. Aruffo:
"Dear Dr. Delay,
When you approach the toll booths headed west, there are four toll stations: The one on the farthest left is the SunPass lane; next to it on the right is an exact change lane; then two lanes for cash, including one for extra wide vehicles.
There are three lanes for traffic. … One comes directly off I-275 into the left (four toll booths, three lanes of traffic).
This left lane must accommodate both the SunPass lane and the exact change lane. … On a busy weekend it is a nightmare trying to access the SunPass lane and frustrating too, when you consider how other roadways have a dedicated lane for SunPass users.
There is a possible solution. … Just before the toll booths there is a left turn lane for the entrance to College Harbor. Right after that turn lane the median strip protrudes for a very short distance. If a portion of that median strip were eliminated and made into a continuation of the road for the left-turn lane, drivers who use SunPass could separate from the exact change lane much sooner and traffic would flow more smoothly."
We shared Aruffo's letter with the DOT and Carson responded that, as often is the case, an improvement in one direction could create a problem in another.
Carson wrote: "While lengthening the left turn lane through this median opening/intersection would have a positive impact to those using this toll facility during peak periods, the positive impact to the toll facility users would not outweigh the potential negative impacts relative to injury collisions that could result with this change. There is limited room to meet the safe spacing requirements, but we are reviewing to see if there is anything we can do."
Milestone birthday adds another driver to ranks
The Doc's daughter turns 16 today and now that she's joining the rest of us on the road as a full-fledged driver, she has decided to start reading this column. Because, you know, she might learn something from it. Happy birthday, kid! And wear your seat belt!
Until next week, happy and safe motoring!
Please e-mail Dr. Delay at email@example.com to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions.