CLEARWATER — Remember the state's controversial plan to narrow Court and Chestnut streets from four lanes to two lanes where those streets reach the Pinellas Trail?
After hearing loud complaints from Clearwater's elected officials, the Florida Department of Transportation is ditching the plan.
"Because of the concerns out there with the possible lane reduction we were looking at, we're not going to do that," said FDOT spokeswoman Kris Carson.
State transportation officials had been thinking of taking dramatic measures to improve safety where the Pinellas Trail crosses State Road 60, the main route to and from Clearwater Beach.
At that point, State Road 60 is separated into one-way Court Street, heading west, and one-way Chestnut Street, heading east. Bicyclists and pedestrians who use the 34-mile trail have called for safety improvements at those busy crossings.
FDOT's proposal originally called for the two outside lanes on Court Street to be blocked by raised concrete islands with flashing lights. Vehicles in the outer lanes would have been forced to turn left or right at Myrtle Avenue, just before the trail crossing. Meanwhile, the inner two lanes would have continued on toward Clearwater Beach. The strategy on eastbound Chestnut would have been similar, funneling four lanes down to two.
The Clearwater City Council wasn't happy to hear this — especially regarding Court Street, where beach-bound traffic already backs up for long distances during spring break and on busy beach weekends.
"This is the dumbest idea I've ever heard," Vice Mayor Paul Gibson said upon learning of the plan in late October. Mayor George Cretekos called FDOT's regional director for the Tampa Bay area to weigh in.
"I think the input from the City Council helped a great deal," said Clearwater's traffic operations manager, Paul Bertels.
Carson, the FDOT spokeswoman, said transportation engineers still plan to install flashing lights for pedestrians at the Pinellas Trail crossing, but they won't block any traffic lanes.
"When people go to cross the road, they would activate the flashing beacons," Carson said. "Those have worked fairly well in other areas."
The beacons are to be added during a repaving of that stretch of State Road 60, which is scheduled for early 2015.
Mike Brassfield can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.