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Oldsmar moves to keep monotube at bay

If Mayor Jerry Beverland has his way, the monolithic traffic sign structure known as the monotube will never come to Oldsmar.

Since being installed this spring, the large brown pipe on 66th Street and Park Boulevard in Pinellas Park has been a bull's-eye for punch lines and public scorn, with motorists and morning show disc jockeys taking turns disparaging the thing.

Now add one more critic to that list.

Beverland recently asked the city attorney to find a way to stop a similar big tube, which is used to hang signal lights on state roads, from coming to the city. The state Department of Transportation has no plans to erect one in Oldsmar, but Beverland isn't taking chances.

"They are horrible-looking," Beverland said. "They are ridiculous. It looks like a big water line going across the road."

At a recent City Council meeting, Beverland pointed to a picture of the metal tube. The city needed to address the issue now "if you don't want a great big tube over Tampa Road," he said.

The state has made significant improvements in Tampa Road and Curlew Road, with both state roads being widened in the last few years. The tube went up in Pinellas Park as part of a $2-million state project to improve the intersection.

"We have already gone through Oldsmar and done a lot of work out there, so I don't even know if there is any more work to be done out there," said DOT spokeswoman Marian Pscion.

Besides, if a city has a problem with the monotube, all officials have to do is let their feelings be known, Pscion said.

"We are trying to be more sensitive, and we will work with the city," she said. "If they have a concern, they just need to come to us and talk to us."

The monotube is big for a reason, the DOT says. It has to withstand hurricane-force wind gusts, a requirement for traffic signals after so many were lost when Hurricane Andrew struck in 1992. The tube in Pinellas Park can withstand winds up to 100 mph and wind gusts up to 130 mph.

The state also could not use other options for traffic signals because of the large size of the intersection, which is about 230 feet wide, Pscion said.

At first, the DOT wanted to put a "signal truss" for the traffic lights at the intersection in Pinellas Park. Those are the silver-colored structures with many crossbars.

But Pinellas Park wanted "something sleek," Pscion said, so the city ended up with the monotube.

Since the monotube was erected, thousands of motorists and Pinellas Park residents have complained of the DOT's poor taste, saying the eyesore resembled an above-ground sewer pipe.

The state has been looking into whether the brown pipe _ or as the DOT calls it, "chestnut bronze" _ should be painted another color. The DOT recently showed paint schemes to residents who then could vote on the agency's Web site on their preferred color.

Light blue beat out silver, dark blue, beige and dark green.

Oldsmar is not the only city that has taken steps to stop the tube from coming within its limits.

Seminole officials told the state that they did not want a monotube to be erected during a project to improve Park and Seminole boulevards _ never mind that the state had no plans to install one.

"It was necessary to let them know that we did not want it at that intersection or any other intersection," said Mitch Bobowski, the city's general services director.

Oldsmar City Attorney Tom Trask is investigating what Oldsmar can do to prevent a monotube and plans to call other city attorneys to see what they are doing about it, he said.

But it may not be good news.

"It's a state road, and we have no control over the signalization or the directional signs over a state road," Trask said.

That's not so, said Pscion.

"Just give us a call," Pscion said. "A monotube is not the only option. There are other options. It's not just monotube or nothing."

_ Staff writer Ed Quioco can be reached at (727) 445-4183.

Monotube facts

Diameter: 3 feet

Height: About 21 feet

Span: 230 feet

Weight: 30 tons

Cost: $260,000

Strength: Can withstand wind gusts up to 130 mph

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