Rapid Transit to Clearwater Beach, Maybe
By Anne McKay Garris
At last, there's been a study on how to get some sort of public transportation quickly across Memorial Causeway without the delay of waiting in the traffic that ties it up on at least 53 days of the year. But, according to the experts, it will happen only at the expense of more cement and less landscaping at the entrance to Clearwater Beach.
The Pinellas Mobility Initiative Committee of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) hired the firm of Tindale-Oliver and Associates, Inc. to study a way to encourage people to park in the less used parking garages of Downtown Clearwater and take public transportation to Clearwater Beach. This is something the Clearwater Beach Association has hardily supported through all the discussions of parking garages and such on Clearwater Beach.
On Wednesday, the planners had an Open House at the Clearwater Beach Recreation Center to get input from the citizenry on the plan. Unfortunately, few people on the Beach were aware of the Open House so the input was scarce.
Both plans moved the public transportation, probably a trolley, across the east-bound traffic on the east bridge and across the west-bound traffic at the west bridge, so that the vehicle would not be held up in traffic.
According to Joel Rey of Tindale-Oliver, who patiently answered all questions and listened to our comments, there is technology which would allow for traffic lights at both bridges which would be triggered by a device within the bus so crossing over would be doable. There would be a trolley trail, beside the current pedestrian/bicycle trail to speed the passengers on to their destination.
Research is ongoing as to what would have to be done to the brand new pedestrian bridge at the end of the trail so that the trolley could cross over into the Marina property without re-crossing traffic. Asked why the station couldn't be located at the Marina, making the whole plan less complicated, and probably less expensive, we were told that someone from Clearwater government had told them not to consider the Marina in their plans as it was slated for redevelopment.
The alternative, as shown in the drawings, was a station at the west terminal of the Roundabout which would require a paved driveway for the Trolley, around the perimeter of the green space where the Welcome To Clearwater Beach sign now stands, adding another entering access just feet from the already complicated Roundabout entry at Mandalay Avenue. The other alternative would be a station on the parking lot just north of the approach to the Roundabout.
Other proposals were to bring the trolley down the center medium of the Causeway until it could cross over the traffic, removing a large section of the landscaping at the beginning of the Causeway. Input from citizens will be accepted up to December 7, when the plan will go before the Pinellas Mobility Initiative, chaired by Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard, and then on to the Metropolitan Planning Council for further action.
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