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See a blue reflector? Look for a hydrant

I'm a recent transplant from the Seattle area, where I retired from the Washington State Department of Transportation. I have noticed blue reflectors on the street where I live, and I've also seen them on arterials and state routes around Clearwater and Dunedin such as U.S. 19, Drew Street, and Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard. The reflectors occur about every quarter of a mile, but do not occur adjacent to any common feature. Can you help me understand the function of these reflectors?

Brian Bigler

Questions about these mysterious blue reflectors that are embedded in the road in no particular pattern or sequence come in to the Doc's mailbox frequently, so we provide an explanation about them once a year or so.

The blue reflectors are very important tools for emergency responders; they mark the location of fire hydrants and are especially helpful at night and in smoky or foggy conditions. Next time you notice a blue reflector in the pavement, take a quick look at the curbing to the right or left, and chances are that you'll spot a fire hydrant. In addition to functioning as invaluable help to firefighters, the reflectors can provide kids with a fun distraction. The hunt for the blue markers and corresponding hydrants can occupy the crankiest of passengers of any age.

Do you know of any plans to replace the toll booths at the Sunshine Skyway bridge with all-electronic tolling or toll by plate such as on the Crosstown Expressway? Even the SunPass lane is so slow sometimes because of the restricted speed limit.

Keith Humphrey

The state Department of Transportation doesn't have plans in the works to convert the existing Sunshine Skyway toll plazas to all-electronic tolling or to add open road tolling lanes like the ones we see along the Veterans Expressway or the Suncoast Parkway. Such a decision is contingent on SunPass usage. According to DOT spokesperson Christa Deason, vehicles that use the electronic SunPass average about 40 to 43 percent of the total vehicles passing through the Sunshine Skyway toll plazas daily. The number of SunPass users would have to increase to about 75 percent of the total before conversion of the tolling plazas would be considered.

"As part of I-75, the Skyway is an important roadway for moving goods and visitors from out of the area and the majority of them don't have a SunPass," Deason said.

Barricade watch

• Gary Place in Dunedin will be closed at Causeway Boulevard until Wednesday due to work on the water main in the area.

• Motorists should expect delays and congestion along Alderman Road from Regal Oaks Boulevard to Lakepointe Road in Clearwater through Friday due to work that includes milling and resurfacing of the road and the addition of new pavement markings. The suggested alternative route is Highlands Boulevard N.

• Friday's Matchbox Twenty concert in downtown Clearwater will close S Osceola Avenue to traffic from the south side of Cleveland Street to the Water's Edge Condominium. City officials suggest that motorists use Fort Harrison Avenue as an alternate route.

Email Dr. Delay at docdelay@gmail.com to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions or follow Dr. Delay on Twitter @AskDrDelay.

See a blue reflector? Look for a hydrant 03/09/13 [Last modified: Friday, March 8, 2013 1:15pm]
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