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Improvements coming for crash-prone area

All anybody really hoped for was a flashing red light.

Such an obvious signal should alert even the most inattentive driver to stop where Lakeshore Road dead-ends into Newkirk Drive at Northdale's back entrance, community leaders reasoned.

But when Hillsborough County officials evaluated the intersection at the community's request, they quickly determined the site of multiple accidents - including a handful of crashes into yards' walls - needed much more. The biggest addition will be street lighting, said Mike McCarthy, director of the county traffic services division.

Maria Chang, whose house is closest to the intersection, was elated with the news. She has seen cars plow through the block wall that's supposed to guard her home from the road. Just two days after county officials visited the site, she was awakened by a loud crash and the flashing lights of emergency vehicles at the corner.

"That's going to be great," Chang said of the pending alterations. "Thank God. I have been praying for that."

Tampa Electric will design the lighting pattern for the roads, which currently sit dark at night, when most of the accidents occur. The installation should take two to three months, McCarthy said, suggesting the roads will be lit no later than June.

The county's plan also includes three steps considered routine maintenance.

It will replace the existing stop sign, which is faded and weathered. It will add a "Stop Ahead" sign 400 feet before the intersection, to clue in drivers that the end of the road is coming. And it will reconfigure the signs showing that all traffic must go right or left onto Newkirk.

The directional signs currently sit to the left of the intersection, making it unclear that there's a dead-end. Deputy Jeffrey Massaro, the community's resource officer, said the configuration does not conform to Department of Transportation standards.

These upgrades represent the first step toward improving safety at the intersection, but not necessarily the last, McCarthy said. After making the changes, the county will keep a close eye on the site to see what happens there. If things don't get better, he said, "we might escalate the measures."

Other dangerous roads have received similar treatment. McCarthy pointed to northbound Countryway Boulevard, off Memorial Highway.

Improvements there began with signs, striping and warning lights. But as crashes continued, the county put in speed tables and other traffic calming devices.

"We try to do the least intrusive measures first," McCarthy said.

Frank Giordano, president of the Northdale Special Taxing District, praised the county's prompt response and will now look at other roads that need attention.

These include Braesgate Lane at Northdale Boulevard; and Mapledale Drive, where speeding appears to be increasing.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at (813) 269-5304 or