The Doc celebrated an anniversary last month, marking my fourth year behind the wheel as Dr. Delay. Longtime readers of the Ask Dr. Delay column know that I am not the first Doc, which is both challenging and humbling. I'm actually the fifth Dr. Delay, and my predecessors set a high standard in reporting on potholes, malfunctioning traffic signals, tailgaters and speed demons for nearly two decades. So have the readers of the column, who are the reason we have kept driving around town and bugging the folks at the state DOT, Pinellas County Public Works and the city of St. Petersburg's transportation department. Somebody's gotta do it. And I think I can safely speak for the four previous Docs in saying that it's a gratifying undertaking.
Last week I took a look back at the four years of columns I've written in response to reader inquiries and complaints and noticed that one subject stands out among all others. Man, oh, man, do we hate roundabouts. Some folks call them rotaries. Or traffic circles. The previous Dr. Delay referred to them as "traffic pustules." But whatever term you prefer, the circulars meant to calm traffic while maintaining a continuous flow really tick most people off. My opinion is that when they work they're great, but when they don't work — more to the point, when motorists don't address them properly — they're a complete waste of concrete and reflectors. There are certainly a few roundabouts around town that I would be happy to see replaced by a good old-fashioned four-way stop, because some folks just don't seem to know how to slow down.
Reader Jim McPoland agrees: "Hi Doc, I travel 30th Avenue NE a lot. Often I can't get into the circle due to speeders coming up or down First Street. The other day, I had to sit (almost started out since it was my turn) when two speeders came south on First Street. They never slowed, and apparently never planned to yield. This happens all the time. Why can't something be done? I prefer a stop sign on 30th; at least that would be safer."
Dear Jim: Me too.
Friendship Trail, fishing pier damage assessed
It has not been a good time lately for fans of the fishing pier on the old Sunshine Skyway bridge or the former Gandy Bridge's Friendship Trail, which was closed last week because of the visible decay of the structure. Saltwater and the other corrosive elements have taken their toll on both structures. In August, the state closed the east section of the fishing pier that was part of the old Sunshine Skyway after discovering structural degrading. The DOT suggested that the Friendship Trail, among others, be inspected as well because it's about the same age as the Skyway. Reps at the county told us last week that the inspection of the Friendship Trail Bridge is ongoing. About a mile and a half of the middle section is closed right now. A full report is expected in about 2 1/2 weeks from an engineering firm that specializes in bridge structures. Something tells me the price tag for fixes is going to be out of reach.
Road work to look out for this week:
LEALMAN: 55th Street N from 46th Avenue N to 54th Avenue N — detours for drainage improvements.
SEMINOLE: 102nd Avenue N from Seminole Boulevard to Starkey Road — roadway beautification; Park Boulevard drawbridge over Intracoastal Waterway — bridge maintenance and painting; Walsingham Road from Seminole Boulevard to 119th Street N — milling operations for road widening.
Please e-mail Dr. Delay at email@example.com to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions. Check out Dr. Delay's Bay News 9 blog at www.baynews9.com/DrDelay.html to read more about commuting issues.