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Remedies in works for McMullen-Booth

Attention interested motorists: It might take awhile, but McMullen-Booth Road will be improved.

Among the changes planned are double right turn lanes on busy streets intersecting with McMullen-Booth. There also are plans to reduce a hopscotch of turns off the road into the multitude of teeny strip malls whose right-turning visitors often clog traffic.

Traffic lights will be synchronized as well, but the main problem is something that cannot be fixed.

"Most of the (residential) growth is in this corridor and most of the (places of) work is in south county and Tampa," said Jacob Riger, a transportation planner with Renaissance Planning Group.

The company is working with the county's Metropolitan Planning Organization on a study to determine how to improve McMullen-Booth Road.

Traffic engineers say it's unlikely that folks from Pasco County and northern Pinellas will stop using McMullen-Booth Road to get to Carillon Parkway, or to Interstate 275.

It's also too late for residents to renege on their decision prohibiting I-275 from coming through north Pinellas County.

As a result, MPO representatives met with residents Thursday night for one of a handful of final meetings to determine the road's future. By spring of 2003, they hope to complete a road study and create an improvement plan.

The 30 or so residents who attended (out of 450 people and businesses invited) were mostly senior citizens from the Briar Creek neighborhood in Safety Harbor. Their problems making turns in and out of their neighborhood represent a microcosm of what's going wrong on McMullen-Booth.

Briar Creek shares its single entrance and exit with small businesses recently sprouted up along McMullen-Booth in the past decade. Mease-Countryside Hospital is just a few blocks from Briar Creek.

Residents say they take their life in their hands when making left turns across three lanes of speeding traffic. They also are scared to slow down to make right turns back into their homes.

"If there was a light there, it'd help us," said Jack Clark, a resident.

The city of Safety Harbor looked into it a few years ago and found that no light was needed, Clark said. Now that development has boomed and traffic looms, the MPO says it might be time to take another look.

The residents spoke up, so their complaints will be researched and if necessary, solved.

"Perhaps put in an all-red phase (at the hospital's traffic light) so as to create a gap to get out," suggested Whit Blanton, vice president of Renaissance Planning Group.

In the short term, residents will see double left turns and exclusive right turn lanes at both State Road 590 and Drew Street where those roads intersect with McMullen-Booth. The MPO also is working with the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority to improve travel times for buses, bring a bus across the Bayside Bridge and to create a bus-only lane that will allow public transportation vehicles to scoot along faster than cars.

The plan also includes a number of pedestrian and bike trails that will be linked as well as some pedestrian overpasses.

McMullen-Booth Road cannot be widened, cautioned the MPO's Sarah Ward.

"It'll probably never be where they can cruise through all the lights," Ward said. "With McMullen-Booth there's always going to be a lot of traffic."

The plan comes before the Pinellas County Commission in December. The public is invited to attend.

For information, visit the Web site: www.co.pinellas.fl.us /mpo/mcmullen.htm.

_ Adrienne Samuels can be reached at 445-4157 or samuelssptimes.com.

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