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For safety's sake, board approves new traffic light

Pinellas County's transportation board recommended installing a traffic signal at McMullen-Booth Road and Union Street on Wednesday, citing safety concerns for parents, students and school officials who must cross the six-lane road each day.

The board recommended the light despite engineering studies that show neither the traffic nor the number of accidents at the intersection merit a light. However, a special task force, which included County Commissioner Karen Seel and School Board member Susan Latvala, urged the Metropolitan Planning Organization to support the light.

"I think the (task force) had the safety of the children at their utmost consideration," said Seel, who is also an MPO member.

County Planning Director Brian Smith said the technical criteria that determine whether a traffic signal is warranted, such as the number of cars that pass through the intersection each day, are just guidelines.

"I don't think any traffic engineer would want to be restricted to those guidelines. You need to look at things such as safety issues," Smith said.

The County Commission will consider the light at its Aug. 31 meeting. The chances of the signal winning approval are good since the three county commissioners who sit on the MPO all voted in favor of it Wednesday.

If approved, the traffic light will operate immediately before and after school; it will flash yellow at all other times.