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Sunset Drive cut-through habit a tough one to break

Dear Doctor,

Why did the city of St. Pete ban right turns from Central Avenue (eastbound) on to Sunset Drive S?

Signed, Marty"

"What the heck is going on with Sunset and Central Avenue with the no right turn?" asks Sally. "If you're not really looking for it and you've made this turn every day for years and years, you don't really notice it. I saw a cop over there giving tickets."

And from Dale Dewalt: "I'd like to ask a question about a no right turn on Central at Sunset Drive. It must have been someone of notoriety who wanted it."

Well, yes and no. It was one of those requests that bubble up from the neighborhood.

Here's the deal. You're whisking in from the direction of Treasure Island and spy the Park Street light changing to yellow. If you've been this way over the countless years and know the tricks of beating the pack, a quick right on Sunset, a left again on First Avenue S and - ping! - you have a leg up into downtown St. Petersburg or south through Pasadena.

"There was an excessive amount of speeding and cut-through traffic on that street," Ray McKenzie, the city's manager of neighborhood transportation, said of the sign that was posted April 10. "We're using it as a traffic-calming measure."

"Motorists were trying to beat the turn whenever they saw some backup at Park, avoiding the backup at the signal," adds Angelo Rao, the city's traffic engineer. "Originally the discussion was about closing streets, but the community agreed to do this."

About the tickets, Rao notes, "the Police Department was supportive at least on a trial basis."

Duly noted. An old habit needs breaking.

Here's a time and location change note for folks attending Thursday's Tyrone Area Transportation task force wrap-up meeting. It's now at 7:15 p.m. at the Walter Fuller Recreation Center, 7891 26th Ave. N.

Work started this week on the pedestrian island on 22nd Avenue N at Seventh Street. Barricades on the center of the roadway are where flexible markers will go (they are on order). "Seems to be working," says Rao. "I've seen some brake lights go on."

For the callers from Tierra Verde who asked about the message board saying the Madonna Boulevard bridge will be closed between Monday and Friday. Don't worry.

There will be some delays, that's all, says Rudy Garcia with the county highway department. Consulting engineers are performing routine load tests on the bridge.

Reminder to those who live near today's St. Anthony's Triathlon route. Pace yourself accordingly if you have somewhere to go. Remember you may encounter some delays waiting for bicyclists or runners to pass. Check out the accompanying map.

_ 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