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No, coin-takers on the Bayway aren't just bored

Curious sight on the Pinellas Bayway recently where human toll-takers were seen standing in the "exact change" lanes taking coins from motorists and putting the coins into the toll baskets.

Has our collective aim gotten so bad that the state roadies no longer trust us to hit the mark? Have we been leaving silvery mounds of quarters littering the pavement?

Or did the state have so much money in the surplus fund account that it decided to put some former Arthur Andersen accountants to work?

None of the above, the roadies told us.

Whenever there are toll takers in "exact change" lanes it means there has been some mechanical problem with the toll apparatus, and the workers are there _ sometimes for several hours at a stretch _ to monitor the operations.

So now you know.

Personally, we liked the Arthur Andersen explanation better.

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We have some very cool news for residents of Seminole and Pinellas Park, who have been champing at the bit to get out onto the new Bryan Dairy Road/118th Avenue connector that runs from 66th Street to Interstate 275. Pinellas County officials say their contractors tell them it will be ready for traffic in mid September.

Actually, it was due for completion in August, but all the rain that's been falling on the region has delayed some of the asphalt work. Asphalt can't be put down when the ground is wet _ not if you want it to last.

If the weather gives the contractors a break, however, the wait will be over in about six weeks.

For those headed for I-275, the new connector will only help out immediately if you are headed southbound on the interstate. That ramp will be completed next month.

The ramp funneling traffic from eastbound 118th Avenue to northbound on I-275 and from southbound I-275 onto westbound 118th Avenue won't be finished until next year. The ramp from northbound I-275 to westbound 118th Avenue is still several years away.

Even so, the new connector will tie into 28th Street and Roosevelt Boulevard to create interstate access with only a short detour.

See more about this construction project elsewhere in this section.

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We have still more news, which, if true, will prompt parties all over Pinellas Park.

That railroad intersection, and you all know which one we mean, the bump-and-grind nightmare on 62nd Avenue just west of 49th Street that we have lamented in this space a dozen times in the past few years, might be about to see repair crews.

No! No! Don't jump for joy yet. Let's wait and see, because we've heard this song before.

We recently called Tom Nichols, the street and road maven of Pinellas Park, to inquire about the project's status after several of you asked for an update.

"You mean the crossing that was supposed to be fixed in July 2001?" Nichols said. "And the one that was supposed to be fixed in July 2002?"

Maybe August 2002 will be our lucky month.

The crossing is the joint project of CSX, which owns the railroad tracks and right of way, and Pinellas County, which has some drainage issues in the area that must be addressed.

"The county just told me that the plans are done and work will begin any time now," Nichols said.

We aren't rejoicing yet. That will have to wait until we actually see crews out there making some progress. But we are, as ever, hopeful.

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Speaking of railroad tracks, Jessie strongly advises that you do everything in your power to avoid the crossing at the intersection of Fifth Avenue S and 22nd Street. It earns our Eyeball Jiggler of the Week award for sure.

There are enough bumps and grinds going through there to open a strip joint.

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Those diligent county workers are going to be out and about doing roadside work this week, so be on the watch in the following areas:

In Seminole: The crews will be targeting subdivisions east and west of Starkey Road and north of Park Boulevard, and subdivisions east and west of Starkey north of Ulmerton Road for roadside mowing.

In St. Petersburg: On Central Avenue between 58th and 66th Streets, asphalt maintenance. And at San Martin and Gandy Boulevards and at Miles Creek from 58th to 66th Streets, slope mowing.

In Pinellas Park: Along Park Boulevard, east of Starkey, roadside mowing.

In Belleair: There will be a lane closure at the Belleair Causeway Bridge on Aug. 1 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

In Largo: Look for roadside mowing along local streets from Ulmerton Road to East Bay Drive, and along local streets from Belleair Road to Jasper Avenue. Ditch mowing at 113th Street and Ulmerton and along Janice Lane east and west of 96th Street. And in the "Ugh" Department, there will be storm drain cleaning east and west of Mocking Bird Lane and Cardinal Drive.

Jessie thinks that last one is really for the birds.

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And now, Dr. Delay's Terrible Traffic Tidbit of the Week:

The Federal Highway Administration tells us that travel on all roads and streets in the nation increased by 2 percent between February 2001 and February 2002. The West had the highest percentage change in vehicle miles, with a 5.7 percent increase.

What is hard to believe about these statistics is that we actually pay tax dollars to somebody to keep them.

And my question would be, how do they know? Is there somebody out there counting cars and logging miles traveled? When Jessie and I leave home, does some guy say, "Well, there they go again."

Food for thought until next week.

_ Dr. Delay can be reached by e-mail at, by fax at (727) 893-8675 or by snail mail at 490 First Ave., S, St. Petersburg 33701.