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Traffic signal may stop congestion at intersection

To eliminate traffic congestion at Fourth Street and West Bay Drive in downtown Largo, the state has recommended installing a traffic signal with a left-turn arrow for westbound traffic. The cost for the signal could be as much as $10,000.

If it works, it could keep the city from spending thousands of dollars more to add turn lanes at the intersection. It could eliminate an expected traffic crunch in downtown Largo next spring, officials said.

Largo's traffic engineer Dan Herlihy said the state's proposed signal would allow westbound traffic on West Bay Drive to turn left on a green arrow at Fourth Street while eastbound traffic on West Bay is stopped at a red light.

The signal could be a simple solution to an expected increase in downtown traffic when the school district's new central administration building opens two blocks south of the intersection in March.

That building is expected to bring an additional 700 employees through portions of downtown Largo each weekday.

"Sometimes simple, short-term solutions are overlooked when looking at the big picture," Herlihy said.

The big picture, according to City Manager Steve Bonczek, still includes widening the intersection by adding turn lanes.

However, a new signal with a turn arrow would take the heat off the city to do something soon.

"We have committed $500,000 in gas tax dollars to that intersection," Bonczek said. "I still think it (turn lanes) will happen."

City commissioners are to discuss the proposed signal at a work session Nov. 13. If commissioners go along with the state's proposal and if the state can come up with enough money to install the signal, it could be in place by spring, Herlihy said.

William McDaniel, district chief of the state Department of Transportation, told Bonczek in a letter that he was investigating the department's ability to pay for the signal.

"We will be in touch with you regarding the status of our funding capabilities," McDaniel said in the letter.

Lee Royal, spokeswoman for the department, did not know the status of that investigation Wednesday afternoon.

"The last time I spoke with (McDaniel), he sounded encouraging," Bonczek said. "If they can't come up with $10 grand

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Bonczek said McDaniel also promised to consider "rounding off the corners" of the intersection to make a left turn from the westbound lane easier.

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