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Interstate 4, Sunset Drive raise level of frustration

I know you generally do just Pinellas County," phoned Sally Gasky a bit back, "but I run back and forth to Orlando quite a bit and was wondering if you had any idea what is going on with Interstate 4. I don't see progress or what they are trying to achieve. Kinda wondered if you would know."

Goodness knows, if there is a road that deserves a pop in the kisser, it's I-4.

But bless its little heart, the state Department of Transportation is mussing about, trying to bring the stretch of interstate east of Tampa into the the 21st century.

As growth _ residential and commercial _ surges in the area within sniffing distance of Tampa Bay, the road and exits are getting improvements.

Here's the latest on tap:

Westbound I-4 lanes between State Road 39 and McIntosh Road shift to a new alignment this week. In the meantime, there may be delays on interchange ramps and lane closings between SR 39 (exit 13) and Branch Forbes Road (exit 10) at night.

Between Exits 14 and 15 in the Plant City area, night westbound traffic will be cut to one lane today and Monday. Eastbound traffic gets the single-lane whammy from Tuesday on between exits 10 and 13.

And they get you coming and going in the evenings Monday through Wednesday between Orient Road and U.S. 301. It's down to one lane each way, but DOT says no major delays are expected.

Back across the bay we step into the fire-ant pile that's built up on Central Avenue at Sunset Drive. You'll recall (and a bunch of readers won't let us forget) a no-right-turn sign recently appeared to stop eastbound motorists from heading south on Sunset, whether it's to beat the light at Park Street or just meander on down to South Pasadena.

"It is absolutely ridiculous! So what is wrong if a person makes a right and a left turn since the light turned yellow? Isn't the idea to keep traffic moving?" e-mails Dick Martin. "This intersection sure is not a safe one, but the real problem is cars coming out of Sunset Drive and turning left onto Central, and that can be remedied by the use of one-way traffic control or "no left turns' onto Central Avenue."

He goes on to suggest "about the comment on speeding and "A traffic calming measure.' Do they control speeding on the interstate highways by using speed bumps? No! They enforce the law! Ticket the speeders and punish them. Why punish the innocent people who need this access?"

Four other e-messages echoed Martin's thoughts.

A tip of the hat, too, for the half-dozen callers who vented on the same subject.

Among the more poetic was a caller name Sharon. The beginning was a champ.

"Dear Doctor. I need a sign on my street for traffic-calming measures, and my mother needs a sign on her street for traffic-calming measures. Oh, my friend needs a sign on her street for traffic calming, too." Then we're off to a thumping message about the frustration of that new sign.

"If the people feel the traffic is too much or fast for them," she says, "they need to contact the police department or move. Police give tickets for speeding, which I certainly agree with, but to give tickets for making a right turn from the right lane into the right lane of Sunset Drive S is infringing on my privilege to drive to the grocery store without having to go round the mulberry bush to get there."

The Doc passed them along to Angelo Rao, the city's traffic engineer, who said he'd had a few himself.

"One individual is thinking of developing a petition in opposition," Rao said. He suggests if you follow the route "to provide an alternative so we can review those thoughts. I'll be happy to review any other suggestions that come down the pike."

"Those signs on the interstate urging people to exit far away of the stadium for the convenience of the city traffic flow is a little excessive," phones Blair Mills. "On Gandy there is a sign that says get off at Fourth Street to get to the Devil Rays games. That's deceptive at best. Similarly in Tampa they do the same, directing traffic over to Hillsborough Avenue to the football stadium. It's a dirty trick."

"I still think it has a function to deal with congestion and instill safety," says Rao. "Thirdly, it offers equity of economic development in the downtown area. I think these three fundamental objects should be pursued regardless of the quantity (of cars routed away from I-275)."

_ 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