Pinellas County is rethinking plans for improving the 7.5-mile Park Street/Starkey Road corridor.
CLEARWATER – Improvements for the Park Street/Starkey Road corridor have been a part of Pinellas County's Comprehensive Plan since 1989.
Until recently, the project consisted of building a six-lane divided roadway from Tyrone Boulevard to East Bay Drive. But now county staff is proposing new parameters they say will better meet current needs.
Al Bartolotta, section manager with the county’s Planning Department and Metropolitan Planning Organization, updated commissioners during the March 18 regular meeting on recommendations from a consultant team asked to re-evaluate the project.
He showed a chart of 2010 traffic projections made in 1989 and real numbers from 2012. The most drastic change, down by 91 percent, was the estimate for the Tyrone Boulevard to Park Boulevard segment.
In 1989, experts projected the annual average daily traffic on that segment would increase to 46,900. Actual numbers in the Pinellas County 2012 LOS (level of service) Report showed an AADT of 24,500.
Those same experts projected an AADT of 39,800 for the Park Boulevard to Bryan Dairy Road segment. Numbers reported in 2012, showed a 45 percent decrease to 27,400.
“That's a big difference in numbers,” Bartolotta said.
The downward trend in traffic coincides with the decline in the county’s population from 2000 to 2010.
Meanwhile came the economic downturn and there was no money to implement the project and it stalled. So staff took the opportunity to revisit the project with help from the design consultant.
Bartolotta used a map to show “significant” areas near the corridor where people live in poverty.
“Those people are not driving,” he said. “They're utilizing the bus, biking and walking.”
An analysis of the corridor revealed areas with no sidewalks, some with no contiguous sidewalks and bus stop that consist of “just signs sitting on swells,” he said.
He pointed out that there were other modes of travel besides cars and safety had to be a primary concern.
“Six lanes don’t mix well with safety,” he said.
Ken Jacobs, manager with the county’s Traffic Division, said the corridor study involved creating balance to solve congestion and capacity problems. Staff now believes capacity enhancements can be made without making the entire corridor six lanes.
He pointed out that transitions between six lanes and four lanes and around intersections would be critical.
“It's a balancing act – the need for capacity and the need for pedestrians and bicyclists,” he said.
Staff is focused on making sure investments already made for the project are being used. These investments include prior design plans, permits and rights of way already purchased.
Consultant Chris Lovett with Engineering Services URS Corporation in Tampa explained proposed plans for the different segments. The design maintains a minimum 19.5 median width for separation of the two-way traffic and provides left-turn lanes. The minimum lane width is 11 foot.
The existing stormwater conveyance system will be used. Bus pads and connecting sidewalks will be incorporated. A continuous sidewalk along each side of the corridor away from the curb where right of way permits also is included, as are continuous bike lanes along each side of the road.
Five intersections are targeted for capacity improvements, including Park Street at Tyrone Boulevard, Park Street at Park Boulevard, Starkey Road at Bryan Dairy Road, Starkey Road at Ulmerton Road and Starkey at East Bay Drive.
The intersections are currently failing or will fail in the future, staff said. The goal is to improve the capacity at the intersection but not overbuild the links between. Transitions from the intersections to the narrow links are critical.
The 7.5-mile project is divided into six segments with Segment 1 divided into three with sub-segments. County and MPO staff have been working with the cities of Seminole and Largo to address concerns. The section of Park Street from Tyrone Boulevard to north of 86th Ave. N., primarily on the west side, is adjacent to land within the city of Seminole. The section of Starkey Road from south of Ulmerton Road to East Bay Drive goes through the city of Largo. The remainder is located in unincorporated Pinellas.
• Segment 1A runs from Tyrone Boulevard to 54th Avenue North. Current plans call for a four-lane urban roadway. The project completes the connection to the 46th Avenue and addresses pedestrian safety concerns in the area. Design cost is 215,000 and construction $4.9 million. It is funded for construction in fiscal year 2017-18.
• Segment 1B from 54th Avenue North to the Cross Bayou Canal Bridge is a four-lane project with a transition from 62nd Avenue to the six-lane bridge. It includes improvements for pedestrian and multimodal safety. Design cost is estimated at $215,000 and construction $5.3 million. It currently is not funded.
• 1C will be a six-lane road running from the south side of the bridge to 84th Lane North. Plans include widening of the functionally obsolete existing bridge to bring it up to standards and provide bicycle and pedestrian facilities. Design costs are budgeted at $220,000 and construction $4.6 million. It is funded and scheduled for construction in fiscal year 2015-16.
• Segments 2, 3 and 4 also will be a six-lane roads. Segment 2 runs from 84th Lane North to 82nd Avenue North and Segment 3 from 82nd Avenue North to 106th Avenue North. Segment 4 goes from 106th Avenue North to north of Bryan Dairy Road.
• Segment 2 includes an extended intersection improvement project to improve flow at Park Boulevard. Design cost is budgeted at $134,000 and construction $5.2 million. It is funded for construction in fiscal year 2016-17.
• Segment 3 addresses continuity, pedestrian and multimodal safety concerns. Design cost are estimated at $236,000 and construction $9.5 million. The project is not currently budgeted.
• Segment 4 provides improved traffic flow and connection to the Bryan Dairy Road project, Starkey Road to 72nd Street. Design cost was $63,000 and construction $4.2 million. The project is currently under construction.
• Segment 5, which runs from north of Bryan Dairy Road to 130th Avenue North, will be a four-lane road with design features to address pedestrian and multimodal safety concerns. Design costs are estimated at $220,000 and construction $6.2 million. Segment 5 is not currently funded.
• Plans for segment 6 call for a five-lane road, three going northbound and two southbound. The project addresses traffic flow especially between Ulmerton Road and East Bay Drive and pedestrian and multimodal safety. Design is estimated to cost $550,000 and construction $8.8 million. The project is not currently funded.
Lovett estimated cost for the unfunded segments at about $30 million. He said segments had been funded putting those with prior investments - design costs and purchases of permits or right of way - at the top of the list. The next consideration was need.
“This will give the biggest bang for the taxpayer's money,” Lovett said.
County administrator Bob LaSala said he did not know if additional money for the project would be available until it gets closer to the end of collection of the current Penny for Pinellas. The road project first appeared on the Penny for Pinellas funding list in 1989.
Commission Chair Karen Seel pointed out that costs for the three funded segments were less than budgeted.
“We might have some funding for another segment,” she said.