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MANY PROJECTS TAKE THE SLOW ROAD

It often takes years for roadwork to be approved, planned and financed.

Traffic circles, speed bumps, raised medians ... oh, why?

You may think that new traffic device on your street is unnecessary, especially given these tough economic times.

But the truth is that project was planned years ago, voted on and approved by your local neighborhood association, and paid for by special pools of tax dollars that cannot be used for anything else but new construction and roads.

Nonetheless, people call the city all the time to complain about that zany road impediment.

"People say, 'We need this, why don't you spend it on that,'" said Michael J. Frederick, neighborhood transportation manager. "Well, everything is compartmentalized. It's what we can spend it for."

After a neighborhood association submits a request, it can take years before the idea is approved, the plans drafted and the funding secured. Many projects are paid for through the county's Penny for Pinellas tax, which is set aside for infrastructure projects. Others take advantage of federal grants.

There are about 50 projects in the planning stage on Frederick's current list. Right now, shovels are in the ground in four or five places.

Take the new traffic circle and sidewalk work under way at Park Street and Villa Grande Avenue in Old Pasadena. The planning began in 2001, was approved in 2004 and only began now after all the funding came through. The traffic circle alone costs $40,000, and is being paid by the county's penny tax.

Another project rerouting traffic on Central Avenue brings new curbs, sidewalks, and hurricane-resistant traffic signal poles on 20th, 22nd and 28th streets. Planning began in 2002. In this case, the city applied for a federal grant, but the work is carried out by the state. The price tag? Just over $1 million.

Another half dozen traffic median projects across the city, from Northeast Park to Lakewood, are in the final funding stage; work on those should begin by the end of the year, Frederick said.

Incidentally, those designs represent the last stretch of the Neighborhood Traffic Plan, which started in 1997 and has completed traffic calming projects in about 90 neighborhoods.

Luis Perez can be reached at (727) 892-2271 or lperez@sptimes.com.

On the web

Traffic plans

Visit stpete.org/neighborhoods to view a full list of all the neighborhood traffic plans.

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