Old traffic patterns die hard.
That's what city transportation officials have discovered since spending an estimated $18,000 this summer to reconfigure the busy intersection at Shore Acres Boulevard and Overlook Drive. To keep motorists from taking a shortcut over newly sodded grass, the city has had to put up temporary barricades and reflecting signs.
"The barricades are going to be removed,'' transportation director Joe Kubicki promises, "but we're going to give it some time.''
The project is among this year's traffic safety improvements for Shore Acres, a waterfront community whose confusing maze of streets is in sharp contrast to the orderly grid pattern found in most other parts of St. Petersburg.
By November, crews should also be finished with two other projects: redesigning the dangerous intersection at Delaware Avenue and Shore Acres Boulevard, just across from a city recreation center and several school bus stops; and installing a crosswalk at Overlook and Chancellor Street near the Lutheran church and school.
City officials "have been wonderful working with us to assure we have a bicycle and pedestrian friendly neighborhood,'' says Patricia Cook, who heads the traffic committee of the Shore Acres Civil Association.
Until recently, Shore Acres Boulevard curved onto Overlook, where motorists were supposed to pause at a stop sign before continuing south to the bridge to Snell Isle.
"What we observed was that people were either not stopping or slowing down as they went through that slip-on towards the bridge,'' Kubicki says. "And people coming from the other direction, taking the road down toward 40th Street, were taking it at such a high speed it was troubling to the entire neighborhood.''
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In July, workers converted the intersection to a classic T shape, eliminating the curvature by elongating the driveways of two homes and filling in the rest of the area with grass. Now motorists on Shore Acres Boulevard have to come to a full stop before turning right or left onto Overlook.
At least that was the theory.
No sooner was the project finished than a driver ignored the T intersection and cut across the grass, leaving deep, muddy tire tracks.
"Either it was somebody who was impaired or came at it too fast or it was some type of vandal situation,'' Kubicki says. "When I heard about it and saw a picture of it, we told property owners there that we need to put something up so people see that.'' Hence the barricades and reflectors.
Still, Kubicki says, he has received several compliments about the redesign and not a single complaint. But a reporter found a mixed reaction among area residents.
"It was a total waste of money,'' says Ken McGuire, a contractor who lives across the street. "It worked perfectly fine before - now I'm hearing constant tire screeching.''
"I think it was a great idea,'' says Paul Fournier, whose home is also across the street. "People used to fly there, not even a California rolling stop.''
Fournier wonders why the project didn't include moving a telephone pole that is close to the curb on Overlook and partially blocks the view of drivers turning right from Shore Acres Boulevard.
Kubicki, the transportation director, agrees the pole is in an "unfortunate'' location, but said it was not feasible to move it.
His suggestion? "You stop a little before or a little after so you can see.''
Overall, the new intersection seems to be getting positive marks. But it hasn't put an end to the accidents that prompted the project in the first place.
Recently, "my close friend was driving down Overlook and someone didn't stop at the stop sign and hit her,'' says Alice Finan, who lives on Shore Acres Boulevard.
Luckily, there were no serious injures - just a couple of unwanted repair bills.
Susan Taylor Martin can be contacted at email@example.com.