Monday, May 21, 2018
Transportation

Right-turn limitations are there to protect pedestrians

Recently, while proceeding north at the intersection of Seminole Boulevard and East Bay Drive, we noticed three cars turning right while the "No Right Turn" sign was lit. There is also another one of these signs at East Bay Drive and Missouri Avenue. These are fairly new and are causing some confusion. I believe road signs at intersections where these signals are would help eliminate the confusion.

Pat Humphries

As is the case with many principal roads in Pinellas County, the intersections of East Bay/West Bay Drive at both Missouri Avenue and Seminole Boulevard come under the oversight of the state Department of Transportation. A DOT spokesman said it's understandable that some motorists might be confused in spite of the lit signs, especially because the traffic signal may be simultaneously green for through traffic.

According to the DOT, these intersections are heavily used by pedestrians and historically, right-turning vehicles were not yielding to pedestrians who were trying to cross the street. The signs were installed because of this and are activated only when the crosswalk button is pushed. The one exception is when a train is coming along the railroad crossings adjacent to the southbound and eastbound right-turn lanes. The DOT is not planning modifications but says it will continue to monitor the area closely.

I seem to remember reading about Clearwater putting in a traffic light coordination system to improve flow through downtown. I travel from Dunedin to the beach five days per week, and I'm convinced the timing of lights has gotten worse. At Fort Harrison, the Pierce Street signal used to be a quick "on demand" red — as soon as a vehicle on Pierce pulled up, the countdown would begin on the pedestrian crossing signal, and then the light would change. But recently, the pattern has been for the light to turn green for Fort Harrison traffic, and then after a few moments, the countdown starts on the pedestrian signal, and the light changes. This occurs with no vehicle arriving at the intersection and no pedestrian pushing a button.

I travel through that intersection at all hours, and the red light is coming on for no reason, plus the twin lights on Court Street at Oak and Osceola are doing the same thing. They cycle green-yellow-red with no cross traffic or pedestrians anywhere near. It is really frustrating to sit through these delays when there is no other person or vehicle visible anywhere. Can you please find out what is going on?

Dave in Dunedin

We asked Paul Bertels, Clearwater's manager of traffic operations to field this question. Bertels said the only signal coordination downtown is on Court Street and Chestnut Street (State Road 60) and on Myrtle Avenue from Lakeview to Edgewater Drive. The portion of Myrtle from Chestnut to Edgewater is Alt. U.S. 19 and the rest of the corridor is local (city of Clearwater). Fort Harrison is also a local street as are Pierce, Cleveland and Drew, all of which operate free of coordination. Bertels says the high volume of pedestrian traffic downtown is a major factor. When traffic signals are coordinated, pedestrians must wait for the green cycles to expire before they get the walk light, so a decision was made to operate at these three intersections without signal coordination. It is also a priority and policy of Clearwater's traffic operations division to have as much north/south traffic going through downtown using Myrtle Avenue as possible.

By the way, Bertels sent technicians out to check the signals; they found a malfunctioning loop at the intersection of Pierce and Fort Harrison, which was causing the signal to misbehave. Repairs are in process.

Email Dr. Delay at [email protected] to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions or follow Dr. Delay on Twitter @AskDrDelay.

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