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Beach-bound Bayway drivers need better signs

Are the roads jammed?

They are.

Palm Sunday through Easter is the week when Florida roads are most packed. First off, there's us _ the regulars, and the long-term winter residents. Throw in visiting Aunt Millie, Uncle Bob and the three whirlwinds in tow; add a dash of small cars packed with sunburned college kids; stir with a bunch of local school kids and pour on the roadway.

Worst week. "That's a pretty accurate description," says Don Skelton, director of planning for the state Department of Transportation in this area.

Which prompts David Richards at Echo Antiques to ponder the confusion all these people face when piling off the Pinellas Bayway onto St. Pete Beach. There is not enough to tell them where they are and where they need to go.

Imagine this. You are fresh in town and you sail past the tollbooth into the loom of the Don CeSar hotel and, er, if you don't know where you want to go, you are going to start switching lanes to go north, wait, or should it be south?

The only sign you'll find driving toward the intersection lets you know you are coming up on State Road 699. Whazzat?

Wait, isn't that a tiny sign on the other side of Gulf Boulevard, tacked on a concrete pole? What's it say? The words are so small.

Take time to read it and someone behind you is going to lay on the horn. The Doc tried it and got a blast.

Pointing to the left: Historic Pass-a-Grille Business District, Historic Museum, Beaches, Vina del Mar, Church.

To the right, it reads: City Hall, Police, Corey Business District, Motels, Hotels, Gulf Boulevard, Churches.

Good idea, this sign, but it should be a block earlier, a bunch larger and hanging overhead so you can make a reasonable choice without endangering yourself and the folks in the car next to you.

On to Belcher Road.

"There's been so much attention about the work on Belcher on up to Tyrone (Boulevard)," says Sherrie Kiefer. "I was wondering if there is anything people can do for the traffic that comes on the back way here on 71st Way, between 71st Street and 46th Avenue. We have traffic that cuts through here between 4 and 7 o'clock Monday through Friday. There's a lot of kids on the street. We've called the police and asked them to monitor it; there's nothing that anybody can do about it. I was wondering if there's anything you can do about it."

The Doc calls your attention to it.

Here's what happens. Traffic on 71st Street N (as Belcher is known in these parts), comes barreling south from Park Boulevard and 54th Avenue N and starts backing up at the 46th Avenue N light. As traffic backs up, drivers start looking for escape routes.

They start making right turns on 47th and 49th Avenue N, then lefts on 71st Way and down to 46th Avenue to bypass the light.

"I can even understand that," Mrs. Kiefer says. "But my main concern is we have so many kids there _ two of them belonging to me." She says police monitoring was promised a month ago, "but I see them usually on Sunday or before or after the rush."

"About a year ago," writes Harold R. Carlson, "the DOT started working on the "speed bumps' on I-275 north of Central. These bumps are where the paving meets the overpasses. I think at the time two or three were taken care of. Then the DOT stopped, and no more were done. If they ran out of money, they could borrow some from Hillsborough. Over there, they seem to be working on these bumps all the time."

State Department of Transportation crews did smooth a few of the bumps, as you noted. But a bunch more needed help. But having driven Hillsborough County's main drags this past week, the Doc isn't sure borrowing from them is such a good idea. There are a lot of horror spots there needing attention.

"My second peeve is the R.R. Crossing on 31st Street S near Fairfield Avenue and Gibbs High School," Carlson adds. "The roadway along there is great. But something needs to be done with the R.R. crossing."

I'll second that. The Doc and his readers have visited that site before and, well, it's just getting worse. Read on.

Patsy Gaylor-Zerilli asks: "Not long ago you wrote about several bad crossings, and I had a good chuckle, since I often cross the 31st Street one. But have the bumps, gaps and holes gotten EVEN BIGGER since Cox Lumber extended the chain-link fence ACROSS the west side of the tracks last month, or is it me?"

The Doc's not sure the fence is to blame, but the timbers that make up the lip of the crossing near Fairfield Avenue S are in terrible shape. Pieces fly from them if you hit it at a good clip. Fixing this one seems to be a low priority. As readers will recall, it's tough working out deals between the railroad, which owns the right of way, and governmental bodies, which control the road.

"In the same vein," Gaylor-Zerilli adds, "perhaps you can answer another question that keeps nagging at me: What is the best "crossing etiquette' to follow to avoid utterly destroying my car? I always slow down and creep over the humps and bumps and holes, and yet I notice other drivers keep up their speed and literally FLY over the crossing."

The Doc prefers the slow approach. Seen too many things fly from the timbers. The best method, of course, is to stop your car, get out, hoist it on your back and tote it over the tracks, setting it gently on the other side. That was possible in the Doc's Volkswagen days; less so now.

This heads-up is for Dr. M. L. King (Ninth) Street S regulars.

City crews are rebuilding curbs from Country Club Way and Lake Maggiore to 62nd Avenue S and the Skyway Shopping Center. At the moment, they're on the west side about 57th Avenue S. Before they're done, both sides of the street will have fix-ups.

Which brings the Doc to why. Once the curbing and sideway cuts are done, bring on the milling and resurfacing equipment. That's due in the last half of April. That stretch of road is getting a long-scheduled, serious face lift, says Tom Gibson of the city's engineering and stormwater department.

_ Write me at Ask Dr. Delay, Neighborhood Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731-1121. Or call. Using a Touch-Tone phone, phone TimesLine at 898-0019; punch in category code 8900. Or e-mail me at docdelaysptimes.com.

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