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Address system gets test on U.S. 19

Members of a task force hope the new number signs along the highway will help motorists find addresses more easily.

Five sand dollar-shaped signs to help motorists identify street numbers on U.S. 19 have been installed as possible prototypes for similar signs all along the county's north-south corridor.

Several members of a county-sponsored task force, which has recommended such signs, committed to a test run here.

"This is a trial for public input. It's a little experiment to make U.S. 19 a little safer," said Terry England, of England Bros. Construction and a member of the U.S. 19 Task Force set up by the Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The task force included representatives of county government, law enforcement, traffic engineers, businesses, and residents who were asked to recommend ways the commercial-industrial thoroughfare could be made safer for motorists and pedestrians.

U.S. 19 is one of the most dangerous highways in the county with more than 6,900 accidents and 53 deaths from 1996 to 1999. The MPO's proposals for improving safety along U.S. 19 will be completed by early summer, according to Gina Harvey, a county planner. The improvements will be financed through a $50-million federal highway appropriation.

England enlisted several area businesses to design and pay for the trial signs.

The signs are 3 feet in diameter, with white numbers on a blue field. The poles are 8 feet high.

On the east side of U.S. 19 at half-mile and quarter-mile intervals between Park Boulevard and 118th Avenue, they are posted at:

+ the old United Artists Theater, 7901 U.S. 19;

+ Autoway Toyota, 8501 U.S. 19;

+ Bill Jackson's, 9501 U.S. 19;

+ Windgate Inn, 10550 U.S. 19;

+ and Joyland, 11225 U.S. 19.

"It's just so wonderful an idea. For a lot of people, it's very difficult when driving on U.S. 19 to know where you are. There are not many addresses on buildings out there," said Rita Bott, director of the Pinellas Park/Mid-County Chamber of Commerce, who estimated the cost of the prototype signs at about $1,500.

Incoming chamber president Housh Ghovaee of Northside Engineering, also a member of the U.S. 19 Task Force, joined England in pressing area businesses to support the signs, according to Bott.

"Housh didn't want the idea to die, so he suggested a demonstration project," Bott said.

Because of state Department of Transportation restrictions, England said he had to get permission from business owners to install the signs on their property, just off the DOT right of way.

Harvey, who worked with the task force, said the signs are not officially sanctioned and may not represent the MPO's final design.

"This was just one of many recommendations. The strongest recommendation was to enforce existing sign ordinances that require businesses to display their addresses," Harvey said.

The task force also recommended address ranges on existing street signs, uniform address signs, the publication of a U.S. 19 address range map in Yellow Page telephone books, and a public brochure.

Other U.S. 19 issues studied by the task force included the physical design of the roadway such as driveway connections and median openings; traffic management; law enforcement strategies; and public education and awareness.