PALM HARBOR – Not everybody’s happy with a proposed plan to install a traffic signal at the intersection of Alt. U.S. 19 and Nebraska Avenue in downtown Palm Harbor.
Residents would rather have a signal at Florida Avenue to better connect west and east areas of the town. Two signals, one at Florida Avenue and another at Nebraska Avenue, also might be agreeable.
Residents expressed their concerns during an April 15 meeting to talk about results of a traffic access and circulation study for downtown Palm Harbor.
According to a memo from Leland Dicus, chairman of the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Technical Coordination Committee, to Chairwoman Karen Seel, “Many in the community did not agree with the findings that downtown Palm Harbor would be best served by a traffic signal at Nebraska Avenue.”
He also said some, who attended the meeting at Harbor Hall, 1190 Georgia Ave., were concerned that the study didn’t consider bicycle and pedestrian access between the recreational area, the Pinellas Trail and downtown.
The TCC passed a motion April 23, asking for an opportunity to work and coordinate with the Florida Department of Transportation, Pinellas County, the Sheriff’s Office, School Board, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority and others plans to address traffic circulation issues along Alt. U.S. 19 in downtown Palm Harbor. The MPO approved the request at its May 14 meeting.
Pinellas County’s Department of Environment and Infrastructure recently completed a circulation study to find out “if and where a traffic signal would be justified,” Dicus said in his memo.
Those results prompted FDOT to agree to allow the county to install a signal at the intersection of Alt. U.S. 19 and Nebraska Avenue. The county has applied for grant funding to pay for design and construction.
Dicus said Palm Harbor residents were told it would be at least six to eight months before design of the signal would begin. In the interim, the MPO and TCC would continue to work with the community, FDOT and the county to determine the best solution for a pedestrian crossing on Alt. 19.
At this point, nothing is final, said Gina Harvey, MPO’s Transportation Section Planning manager.
“We’ll continue working with the community,” Harvey said.
About the study
King Engineering Associates of Tampa presented its report on the downtown Palm Harbor circulation study in November 2013. The study was requested due to interest in having a traffic signal at the intersection of Alt. 19 and Florida Avenue to improve access for pedestrians and motorists.
FDOT’s warrant analysis showed that the intersection lacked the criteria required for a traffic signal. But, FDOT did agree that a signal could be warranted at Alt. 19 and Nebraska Avenue – even though that intersection did not meet all the criteria of a warrant analysis.
The study area boundaries stretched from Alt. 19 to the west to County Road One to the east. Then from Michigan Avenue between Alt. 19 and 12th Street; Georgia Avenue between 12th Street and County Road One to the south; and Indiana Avenue between Alt. 19 and 11th Street; and the alley north of Nebraska Avenue between 11th Street and County Road One to the north.
The only intersection within the study area with a signal is at Nebraska Avenue and County Road One. A pedestrian crossing at Florida Avenue and Alt. 19 provides access to the Pinellas Trail. The crossing does not have a signal. Alt. 19 is a two-lane road with a two-way left turn lane in the center and a sidewalk on one side. Most of the streets within the study area have sidewalks, according to the study report.
Nebraska Avenue is one of the major east-west roads in Palm Harbor. The study said installing a traffic signal on Alt. 19 at Nebraska could result in more traffic moving to the intersection, improving access to downtown.
“However, the intersection currently does not have a pedestrian crossing, and Alt. U.S. 19 currently lacks the facilities to accommodate pedestrian/bicyclists to/from the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail,” the report said.
A sidewalk does exist on the north side of Nebraska Avenue. The consultant said adding a pedestrian crossing could “encourage” pedestrians and bicyclists using the Trail to travel the sidewalks along Nebraska Avenue and 11th Street to get to businesses on Florida Avenue.
Street lighting was recommended. The consultant also said other safety improvements might be needed if a traffic signal is installed.
Flashing pedestrian warning lights are mounted on poles at the pedestrian crossing along Alt. 19 approaching the intersection of Delaware Avenue. A “pedestrian refuge area (raised median)” is on the northbound approach.
The consultant’s report included other intersection improvements, including a roundabout on Alt. 19 and Florida Avenue, “conversion to one-way couplets” and a pedestrian overpass. All three options were eliminated for various reasons.
As part of the study, the consultant conducted business patron studies and scheduled two public meetings – Sept. 15 and Oct. 25, 2013. Of 254 surveys responses, about 17 percent favored a traffic signal and cited vehicle and pedestrian safety as the main reason. Another 10 percent were opposed due to concerns about potential traffic backups on Alt. 19.
“Very few of the respondents walked/biked or used transit to get to the downtown area,” the consultant said in the report.
About 14.5 percent favored a traffic signal at Florida Avenue and 9 percent preferred Nebraska Avenue.
PSTA, Suncoast Beach Trolley and Jolley Trolley, which have bus stops in the area, are agreeable to traffic signals at either location.
FDOT staff was presented with the study recommendations in April 2013 that included installing a signal at Alt. 19 and Nebraska Avenue with a coordinated pedestrian crossing signal at Nebraska and Florida avenues. The consultant concluded that a traffic signal at Alt. 19 and Nebraska would improve vehicle access to the study area.
Recommended improvements for pedestrians include a connection to the Pinellas Trail to re-align with the proposed signal at Nebraska. A continuous 5-foot sidewalk and street lighting along Nebraska Avenue and Alt. 19, and 11th Street, along 11th Street between Nebraska and Florida avenues also was recommended.