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MPO requests review of fatal crash site near Eckerd College

Published Nov. 20, 2012

CLEARWATER — The Metropolitan Planning Organization has agreed to request another state Department of Transportation review of the intersection at the entrance to Eckerd College that was the site of a fatal accident two weeks ago.

The MPO board also recommended a review of the Pinellas Trail where it crosses the entrance.

Robert "Bob" Shepherd, 85, was killed when his car collided with an eastbound vehicle. Shepherd's two passengers, Al and Frances "Blackie" Sparzani, are still receiving medical treatment for their injuries.

Shepherd was an active member in the college community and for more than a decade was vocal about the need for a traffic signal at the campus' main entrance.

Ming Gao of the DOT said the department is looking at the intersection on 54th Avenue S and pulling recent crash data.

About 30 from the Eckerd community, including president Donald Eastman III, attended a recent MPO meeting.

"We have requested a traffic light and been reviewed by the city and DOT three times in my 11-year tenure as president and have been denied," Eastman said.

The college has initiated a petition for a signal. The petition, which has exceeded 2,200 signatures, will be forwarded to Gov. Rick Scott's office.

State Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasadena, has her own reasons for supporting the upgrade.

"I wanted to come here and speak, not as a representative of the district, but I am a graduate of Eckerd College," she said. "In 1998, when I graduated, that intersection was problematic. I don't think we need to lose another life on that road to somebody going in and out of that college."

The DOT removed a traffic signal from that intersection in 1992. Since then, college enrollment has increased by more than 400 and residential growth toward Tierra Verde and the beaches has boomed.