He was a familiar face at Pinellas County Commission meetings always quick to assist the public needing help at the podium. It was a rare occasion that he didn’t have ready answers to questions about anything related to public works or transportation in Pinellas County and beyond.
Pete Yauch, director of Transportation and Stormwater, is taking a month’s vacation and then moving on to take a job with a consulting firm in Tampa that specializes in traffic signal operations and safety.
His last day as a Pinellas County employee was Friday, Aug. 24.
Yauch said he has enjoyed his time at the county.
“It has been a positive experience,” he said by email on his last day on the job.
The St. Petersburg native began his career as a county employee in 2004 and served as director of transportation until 2007. Then he moved up the ladder to the position of assistant county administrator. He was responsible for supervising public works, planning and building departments, development and review services, St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport and the Economic Development Coordination Team.
The past four years, he served as director of transportation and public works and then director of stormwater and transportation when his title changed as part of a consolidation of departments that resulted in the county’s new department of environment and infrastructure.
Yauch talked about some “great transportation projects that have been implemented in Pinellas over the past decade, including the Belleair Beach Causeway, the extension of Belcher Road up to Klosterman Road and two projects nearing completion, Keystone Road and Bryan Dairy Road.
“In addition, our Intelligent Transportation System has significantly improved travel along the corridors where it has been implemented and that implementation will continue along additional roads in the future,” he said.
Yauch is an expert in traffic and traffic management. Before taking a job at the county, he was practice leader for traffic engineering and intelligent transportation system for a company in Tampa. Prior to that, he was regional vice president for a company that held the consulting contract for the countywide traffic signal system head replacement and wide area network project in Pinellas.
He served as city traffic engineer and assistant director of public works for the city of Clearwater from 1991 to 1994 and assistant district traffic operations engineer and district signal systems engineer for the Florida Department of Transportation from 1988 to 1991.
He was president and principal engineer at Gray-Yauch and Associates in Atlanta, Ga., from 1985 to 1988. He worked for an Atlanta firm as traffic engineer and senior traffic engineer from 1977 to 1985. His earliest experience came as a graduate research assistant at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta from 1976 to 1977.
He received his bachelor’s in civil engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1976 and his master’s degree in 1977. He’s a fellow and member of the Institute of Transportation Engineers and past president of the Florida Section. He also is a member of the Florida Engineering Society and International Municipal Signal Association.
One hundred years of improvements
Tampa Bay Newspapers has been publishing a series of articles to mark the county’s centennial and asked Yauch to share his knowledge of events before he moved on to a job in the private sector.
“There have definitely been a lot of transportation changes and improvements” over the last 100 years, he said.
“When the county was formed (in 1912), railroads and waterways were the main transportation modes into St. Petersburg,” he said.
Yauch highlighted some of the transportation milestones, including the Orange Belt Railroad that ran to St. Petersburg in 1888 and later became the Atlantic Coast Line. The Tampa and Gulf Coast Railroad started operations in St. Petersburg in 1914 and later became the Seaboard Railway.
“Now, a lot of the tracks have been converted into trails and there are only two freight trains a day that travel through the county,” Yauch said.
St. Petersburg had streetcars from 1903 to 1949.
“Now, we’re looking at building a modern-day equivalent – light rail,” he said.
The first commercial air service in the country started in St. Petersburg in 1914 with regular flights to Tampa. The first Gandy Bridge opened in 1924, and the Courtney Campbell Causeway was opened in 1934.
A ferryboat ran from Pinellas Point to Manatee County from 1926 until the first Skyway Bridge opened in 1954.
“It was the Skyway that really started the growth of Pinellas County,” Yauch said.
Yauch said there is a lot more that needs to be done in Pinellas County.
Some of the major projects underway include Florida Department of Transportation projects on U.S. 19, Curlew Road to Park Boulevard; 118th Avenue Freeway, future State Road 690; Roosevelt Boulevard realignment and the Bayway Bridge replacements, as well as county road projects on Keystone Road, U.S. 19 to East Lake; and Bryan Dairy Road, Starkey to 72nd Avenue.
“Dunedin Causeway will need to be replaced in the next decade,” Yauch said. “We have a lot of infrastructure that was constructed during the rapid growth of the 1960s and 1970s that is getting old and will need replacement.
“We continue to have traffic safety concerns with about 15,000 injuries and 100 fatalities every year in the county. And although we have had a recent downturn in traffic volumes due to the economy, we will still need to address recurring congestion problems in the future.”
Ongoing transit initiatives could help. Time will tell.