CLEARWATER - The opening of the new Memorial Causeway Bridge in 2005 was supposed to relieve traffic congestion, but eastbound motorists have experienced anything but relief.
Eastbound traffic has routinely backed up beyond the bridge due largely to the unfavorable traffic signal timing at the Ft. Harrison Avenue intersection.
The heavy courthouse pedestrian traffic has also been in conflict with upwards of 30,000 vehicles per day of beach traffic, sometimes creating scenes reminiscent of the video game Frogger.
For the last year, the City of Clearwater, Pinellas County and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) have been devising roadway improvements that would both improve vehicle flow and pedestrian safety in the area. Their solution is finally ready to move forward.
Paul Bertels, Clearwater's Traffic Operations Manager, sought City Council approval on Tuesday of a $127-thousand contract with Grimail-Crawford Inc for the detailed design of the roadway improvements.
"A lot of this work is intended to help pedestrians get across the road and to better control their access points; right now, they can cross anywhere," said Bertels in response to questions from Councilmember Paul Gibson. Pedestrian crosswalks would be clearly marked and decorative barriers would prevent pedestrians from crossing outside the crosswalks.
To resolve the issue of what Gibson called "ungodly" traffic backups, Bertels said that the signals at the intersections of Ft. Harrison with Court and Chestnut Streets would be rephased to prioritize ease and westbound traffic.
Bertels estimated the cost of construction at $395-thousand; he said that Pinellas County has agreed to fund half of that.
Bertels said that the design should be complete by this fall, and that construction would begin in early spring. Lane closures would not be necessary for most of the work, but would be scheduled overnight when required.
"We're going to try to schedule this to avoid spring break," Bertels said in response to a worried question from Councilmember John Doran.