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Residents lobby for traffic light

Two men have died in two months at County Road 1 and Wexford Leas Boulevard, but the intersection still is not considered dangerous enough for a traffic signal.

That is the hard reality for the residents of Wexford Leas, who have begged for improvements to the narrow, unlit two-lane county road.

"It's all we talk about at the (homeowners) meetings, what's going to happen on County Road 1," said Claudia Kuhn, who for two years has written and phoned numerous officials about the intersection. "We go on and on and talk about it, but nothing ever happens."

Residents say they could have predicted what happened Friday evening. Jack Olender was killed when he was hit by a Jeep while walking his dog as he tried to cross County Road 1 near Wexford Leas Boulevard, the entrance to his subdivision. Neighbors have erected a cross at the intersection in his memory.

Six weeks earlier, on Feb. 4, Ronald Streicher received injuries that proved fatal when the motorcycle he was driving with his wife aboard was hit there by an oncoming car. Streicher, 56, was a retired Clearwater firefighter known for his handiwork with wood, tin and stained glass.

A traffic signal might not have saved either man's life, but at the least streetlights might have made a difference, said Ellen Krames, Olender's daughter.

"I don't want this to happen to anyone else, especially not a child," Krames said Monday. Olender, 60, lived alone and was well-liked by his neighbors, Krames said.

Officials have studied County Road 1 probably four times in the past two years for a traffic signal, but it does not meet the requirements, said Judy Weisner, an analyst in the Pinellas County traffic engineering department.

For Wexford Leas Boulevard to meet federal rules for a traffic signal, at least 150 vehicles an hour have to use the road _ for eight hours a day. The closest the street has come is 89 vehicles an hour, Weisner said.

Accident rates also are considered, but again the intersection falls short. County records show five accidents have been reported there since 1995.

"The biggest problem out there is speeding, and that's an enforcement problem," Weisner said. "A signal is not going to control speeding."

County Commissioner Sallie Parks, who lives off County Road 1 north of Tampa Road, said she will ask Sheriff Everett Rice to step up patrols in the area. The speed limit on County Road 1 is 35 mph.

"Unfortunately, sometimes in the meantime, when (signal requirements) are being looked at and reviewed, the fatalities do take place," Parks said.

One of the county's oldest thoroughfares, County Road 1 is crumbling at its edges, and a hump south of the entrance to Wexford Leas makes it harder for drivers to see. The road is scheduled to be widened to four lanes from Curlew to Tampa roads in September 1998, but that is not soon enough for residents.

Laure Filosa, president of the Wexford Leas homeowners association, is starting a citizens group to rally for improvements sooner. Anyone who is interested should call 787-2998.

Krames, who lives in Orlando, said she would like to see some good come from her father's death. She also is hopeful someone can adopt Penny, her father's 12-year-old shepherd Labrador, or his 10-year-old cat, Charlie. They are at the Humane Society of North Pinellas, 797-7722.