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Roundabout adds space for trucks

The city is giving big trucks a wider berth to the beach.

Fifteen feet wider, to be exact.

On Saturday, crews finished installing a ring of raised paving bricks inside the inner lane of the Clearwater Beach roundabout. The $82,000 project, called a "truck apron," was built to withstand the weight of long trailers that sometimes get hung up navigating the busy traffic circle. Landscape crews working at the center of the roundabout will also be able to park there.

But city officials say the apron comes with strings.

Namely, it is off limits to everyone who is not a city worker, a large truck driver or broken down in the roundabout.

It's especially off limits to pedestrians.

"We don't want anybody in the island," said Ray Boler, assistant public services director for the city.

On Monday, though, some wondered if the bricks, which resemble pedestrian passages nearby, will attract walkers.

"I thought it was a walkway," said Kalpana Patel, desk clerk at the Best Value Inn on Eastshore Drive. "It looks like a walkway."

Daljit Kumar, manager of SAI T-shirt on Mandalay Avenue, agreed the apron looks like a sidewalk. But it should help shrink traffic backups, he said.

"I think it's better than before," said Kumar. "At least somebody can park if they get in trouble. Because this roundabout makes a lot of accidents. You know that."

The truck apron is part of a string of changes planned for the roundabout. Last year, crews demolished the landmark's center fountain, and the roadway is scheduled to be resurfaced late this summer as part of continuing streetscape improvements on Mandalay Avenue.

City officials are drafting a plan to consider some type of public art to replace the fountain.

_ Jennifer Farrell can be reached at (727) 445-4160 or farrellsptimes.com.

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