ST. PETE BEACH — After at least 50 years, St. Pete Beach will revise its truck and bus ordinance along with its route map to alleviate noise and traffic congestion on neighborhood streets.
Michelle Gonzalez, city director of transportation and parking, said the issue came to light when officials started talking about ideas to limit bus and truck traffic emanating to and from Hotel Zamora at 37th Avenue and Gulf Boulevard.
“We started looking at ordinances and the city maps that control the ordinances; we encountered a map last updated in the 1960s or 1970s,” she told officials Feb. 25 during a City Commission meeting.
One interesting item that was uncovered is “according to that map, buses should have never gone into Pass-A-Grille,” Gonzalez said.
“Right!” said Commissioner Melinda Pletcher, who opposed PSTA buses traveling into Pass-A-Grille.
Gonzalez told commissioners the truck ordinance is difficult to enforce and there is some inconsistent language. Proposed changes will help clarify traffic regulations, make it easier to enforce and protect residential streets from unnecessary truck traffic.
Trucks and buses, defined as “regulated” in the revised ordinance, have a gross weight exceeding 16,000 pounds, and are designated for the specific purpose of transporting people, property or freight. This does not include vehicles used for government service, utility, solid waste or personal purposes. The maximum gross vehicle weight takes into account the structural weight of a vehicle, including passengers and cargo.
The proposed ordinance would control vehicles starting with a gross weight minimum of 16,000 pounds, which encompass Federal Highway Administration truck classes 5 to 8, Gonzalez told commissioners. “Starting with Class 5 you get into more of the commercial vehicles,” she advised.
Mayor Al Johnson noted Class 4, which include trucks with a 14,000-pound gross vehicle weight, also has some pretty good-sized vehicles.
Gonzalez explained staff research concluded people still have some personal trucks that will fall under Class 4, but the ordinance could be adjusted; “staff didn’t want to make it too restrictive,” she added.
According to the proposed ordinance, a truck route will continue to run along Gulf Boulevard, which is State Highway 699, from Treasure Island to the Pinellas Bayway.
The proposed ordinance restricts regulated vehicles, truck or bus traffic from traveling on residential neighborhood streets, adjacent to Gulf Boulevard or into Pass-A-Grille, from 11 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.
At other times, trucks will have to follow the truck route, but will be able to deviate at the nearest intersection to make their delivery or do pick-up, she explained. The revised ordinance won’t be impacting businesses from conducting normal business, they will just have to find the shortest way to and from their destination.
“They have to minimize the amount of time they are on the residential roads,” Johnson said.
It also prohibits trucks and bus traffic at all times on East Maritana Drive and East Casa Blanca Avenue, due to their location just off the Pinellas Bayway, which experiences a significant amount of truck traffic.
“Having this restriction 24/7 will help those communities,” Gonzalez said.
The revised ordinance aligns penalties to follow Florida statutes, and directs fines to be designated to an account used for signs, enhancing or expanding public transit, and for physical improvements, including bicycle and pedestrian safety, she said.
“Makes me wonder if Pass-A-Grille Way would have survived longer if we hadn’t had trucks and buses run up and down it,” Johnson said.
City Manager Alex Rey told commissioners if there are other areas in the city they think should be restricted from truck traffic, they, too, could be considered.
Restriction on truck traffic at East Maritana Drive and East Casa Blanca Avenue is designed to help residents who live near hotels on the west side of Gulf Boulevard, “where they have been having deliveries at all times of the night,” Rey explained. “The city received complaints that there is nothing that restricts hotels from using little neighborhood roads on the west side of Gulf Boulevard to make deliveries; the (new) map creates the enforcement tool to help.”
Commissioner Ward Friszolowski said one truck traffic issue he would like to see addressed is to help residents on local streets near the 45th Avenue Walgreens. Some trucks turn off Gulf Boulevard onto 46th Avenue and travel through to Lido Drive on neighborhood streets to circle around to Walgreens on 45th Avenue.
“The city has talked to Walgreens managers. There’s no reason trucks have to navigate through a residential neighborhood just to make it easier for them to get into Walgreens delivery area,” the commissioner said.
Gonzalez noted “that’s the point of the ordinance, they are supposed to find the shortest and nearest route; if they are caught, we can enforce it.”
Gonzalez said comments will be collected until March 6. Those with suggestions or requests can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
City commissioners will hold a hearing on the ordinance revision and vote at a later date.