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Police: Add patience to patriotism

(ran SS edition of Metro & State)

With more than 25,000 people expected to cram into Coachman Park for fireworks and fun tonight, traffic is expected to be stacked at a near standstill for hours.

Police are urging motorists to expect delays and remain courteous as they leave the park.

"We will experience a period of gridlock," said Wayne Shelor, spokesman for the Clearwater Police Department. "We want them to anticipate the delays so they don't get red, white and blue in the face. We want people to practice patience with their patriotism."

Traffic will be particularly slow this year because the Pierce Street extension is closed for bridge construction. The Drew Street extension also is closed for the event.

The night starts with the hip-hop group UC3 at 7. The Mostly Pops Orchestra, featuring John and Mary K. Wilson, goes on at 7:30 p.m. and will perform patriotic songs until about 9:30 p.m., when fireworks begin.

Because the fireworks are shot off from the shoulder of the Memorial Causeway, the roadway will be closed from 9 to 10 p.m.

People living on Island Estates or Clearwater Beach should take the Belleair Causeway off Sand Key to avoid delays, Shelor said.

Traffic tie-ups probably will begin in the late afternoon and will last until midnight. Extra officers will be on patrol to help traffic along.

"Not much traffic is going to move very far very fast or for very long," Shelor said. "It doesn't matter which way you come in or leave, you're going to experience traffic delays."

As for parking, it's free at the Pinellas County garage at the corner of Osceola Avenue and Court Street, the Clearwater Municipal Services Building at the corner of Park Street and East Avenue and the Garden Avenue Garage at 28 N Garden Ave.

For information on Fourth of July traffic and safety information, call the city's information line at 562-4400.