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Utility work on Central plods on in the rain

Published Oct. 2, 2005

It wasn't a fit day out for ducks Friday. Two days _ all day _ of rain in a single week is near unheard of in these parts.

Stints like that harken to the "old days," when rains such as these sent top dogs at the late Evening Independent to the window for a glimmer of sun. The Independent's Sunshine Offer meant a free street edition any day the sun failed to shine on the St. Petersburg newsroom. Didn't happen often, and two-fers were rare indeed.

The rain didn't stop city utility crews who set into two blocks of Central Avenue west of Dr. M.L. King (Ninth) Street last week. They were cutting into the mud when there was nary a soul out from cover within three blocks.

"They (the city crews) have, and this is not tongue in cheek, a commitment to working for the businesses along there," says Roy Otto, the city's liaison with the Dome District Improvement Program area merchants.

"The folks out in the field are working to make improvements to move traffic through there _ in a limited way _ in a shorter time period," Otto says.

Down the street, signmaker Chuck Hamm was finishing a pair of 4-by-8-foot signs directing motorists and shoppers to businesses cut off by the torn-up street and sideways. The signs, which you should find in the middle of the blocked intersections early this week, list open businesses and point to parking.

"It will help the merchants that are blocked off and give directions to Baum Avenue," Hamm says.

Baum, parallel to the north of Central just south of First Avenue N, is where most parking is available. During construction, the normally unlimited parking time has been cut to two-hour stints.

Hamm walked the neighborhood to make sure he was listing everyone, finding, he says, some he wasn't aware were there.

"It's an inconvenience, yes, but the whole area has been in need of rejuvenating," he adds. "When it's done and the streetscaping is in place, it will be something. (When baseball comes) people are going to come downtown who haven't been downtown in 30 years. They will be surprised."

Otto says the city will put additional signs pointing to parking.

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Let's roar across town a moment.

If you live in the Tyrone area, do business there or venture through what is arguably St. Petersburg's "other" downtown, keep your antennae up.

Something called the Tyrone Area Transportation Task Force has been formed to look at the traffic needs of that area that calls Tyrone Mall its bellybutton.

Angelo Rao, the city's traffic engineer, says the City Council asked to gather all the jurisdictions (that's "state, county and city government types" to the rest of us) and the first meeting is at 8 a.m. Nov. 12 at the Science Center, 7701 22nd Ave. N.

You're invited. "If you have any concerns about traffic in the area," says Rao.

The city is mailing notices to affected civic and neighborhood associations (eight or nine are in the area) and will air notices on the city and county public access channels.

So what area are we really talking about? The "core," but not limited to, area is 58th Avenue to the north, 58th Street to the east, Fifth Avenue N to the south and Boca Ciega Bay to the west. Rao says the task force also is concerned about people and issues outside that area.

The mission statement is to enhance transportation in the Tyrone corridor by identifying congestion areas and trying to resolve the problems while considering the needs of businesses and residents.

"It's a tall order, it really is," says Rao. "Three levels of government, the business community and residential community. A pretty good mix. We're very optimistic at looking at an April deadline to keep it on track."

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Zip over to the Lakewood area.

Rao met recently with the Lakewood Civic Association, which was asking for all-way stops at three intersections on Alcazar Way S.

Rao is not a big fan of using stop signs as traffic management, "but given the condition of the winding street I am in support of the proposal."

Just to make sure everyone knows about the impending signs, the association will repeat a notification for residents. A decision comes at a 7 p.m. Nov. 25 association meeting at Lakewood United Church of Christ, 2601 54th Ave. S.

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Looking for parking near St. Petersburg City Hall or the south county judicial complex?

For the coming months, Lots No. 2 (off Mirror Lake Drive) and No. 4 (outside City Hall on Second Avenue N) will offer longer parking times. All the meters in Lot 4 and 14 in Lot 2 _ 42 in all _ will be increased to 10 hours.

At 25 cents an hour, that's 10 quarters.

"It's a stopgap measure to get us over the (winter season) hump," says Rao. "Hopefully, before too long, we'll have the "smart park' meters that allow all sorts of payments."

Great. What's the Doc going to do then with all those quarters in the drawer?

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Snell Isle residents and frequenters to the Vinoy golf course can take a look at the Snell Isle Boulevard and traffic circle plans at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. The meeting is at the Women's Club on the boulevard, just over the Snell Isle bridge.

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Residents near the west end of Dartmouth Avenue N want all-way stops at 67th and 68th streets. Rao says they are warranted, "given the geometry, the character of the streets."

A bit more controversial, he says, is a petitioned request for no parking between 7:30 and 9:30 a.m. Monday through Friday in that same block. The aim is to curb the overflow parking of St. Petersburg Junior College Gibbs Campus. Installation of the no-parking signs should be in the middle of the month, unless Rao hears strong opposition.

A few Pinellas County projects to keep an eye on.

In St. Petersburg, repairs to an underdrain at 48th Street and 58th Avenue N.

In Pinellas Park, filtration system cleanings at 110th Avenue N between 58th and 60th streets, 116th Avenue N from 66th Street to 69th Way and 125th Avenue N east of 66th Street.

_ 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