Are school buses creating a hazard as they enter and exit School Board property housing the fleet?
According to workers at nearby businesses, the area around the Walter Pownall complex, on Belcher Road and Bryan Dairy, is fast becoming a place for red-light running and speeding by some bus drivers.
We took a ride out to Belcher Road to observe last week between 4 and 5:30 p.m. and found that, unfortunately, the reports are true. Bus drivers are routinely zipping along 114th Avenue at speeds exceeding the posted 25 mph. The Doc didn't have a radar gun, so I am estimating here, but I followed a few buses and even doing 35 mph I was left in the dust.
Another complaint is that southbound buses queued up to turn left at the intersection of Belcher and 114th routinely run the red light. The Doc witnessed three buses running the red light at that intersection in the first five minutes of our stakeout, followed by two more within 10 minutes. Light-running aside, the buses are creating logjams that feed rush hour backups. Traffic frustration has a trickle-down effect. Northbound motorists stymied by the bus logjams are running the red light at Belcher and 114th, rather than sitting through another light cycle only to be blocked again.
Plus, a reader wrote that bus drivers are shuttling co-workers to remote parking. This doesn't seem unreasonable, the reader said, but "they put out their little red stop signs to let people off, stopping traffic when these adults are getting off the bus on the parking lot side and do not have to cross traffic."
Andrea Zahn, the school district's communications director, said she would pass our observations on to the transportation director. All that said, the Doc salutes school bus drivers who get up early to pick up our kids and deliver them safely to school, then do it all over in the afternoon. They are deserving of our recognition, gratitude and support.
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Reader Wade Wieland inquired recently about the need for traffic calming initiatives in his neighborhood of 37th Street N between 30th and 38th Avenues N. He wrote: "My street is an alternate if 34th Street is closed and school buses use it as a route to and from the bus depot on 38th Avenue N."
He said that there has been a dramatic increase in traffic and its speed. Wieland thinks that the problem has been made worse by the installation of traffic calming devices on surrounding streets. Motorists are detouring onto his street to avoid speed humps one or two streets away.
We passed Wieland's comments on to Mike Frederick, the city's transportation manager, who said that 37th Street between 13th and 39th avenues N is classified as a residential local roadway and as such has no restrictions that would prevent it from being considered in the Disston Heights Neighborhood traffic plan, which calls for speed humps on 37th Street south of 30th Avenue N.
All Frederick needs is demonstrated resident interest - signatures on a petition requesting consideration for speed humps. Frederick can then initiate a traffic study. If you think your neighborhood needs a strategic plan to manage traffic issues, talk to your neighbors, contact the city and keep following up.
Here are traffic delays to look out for this week:
St. Petersburg: Paving on Feather Sound Drive from Ulmerton Road north to end of circle.
Pinellas Park: Maintenance work on the Belcher Road bridge south of Park Boulevard, which may require lane closures and delays.
Largo: 15th Avenue SE at 38th Street: pipe replacement. 95th Street N at 89th Avenue: pipe repair. Quincey Lane at 71st Street: drainage structure repair. Alston Drive and 95th Street: storm drainage repairs. Bardmoor subdivision: ditch cleaning. Between Nursery Road and Lakeview Road, east of Keene Road: paving. Starkey Road between Ulmerton Road and East Bay Drive: shoulder repair.
Lealman: 52nd Avenue N at 67th Street: asphalt patching. 54th Avenue N to 62nd Avenue N: ongoing roadside tree trimming.
Until next week, happy and safe motoring!
Please e-mail Dr. Delay at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions.