DUNEDIN — Imagine Skinner Boulevard from Alt. U.S. 19 to Bass Boulevard as a two-lane roadway – one lane in each direction – with landscaped medians, raised pedestrian crossings, curb outs and roundabouts at Douglas Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Sometime between the years 2021 and 2022 Skinner Boulevard, also known by the Department of Transportation as S.R. 580, could have an entirely new streetscaped look and downtown Dunedin feel.
About 35 interested individuals attended an information meeting, at Mease Hospital’s auditorium Jan. 7, where they had a chance to voice their opinion and provide written comments on two major facelift concepts.
One design includes traffic roundabouts at Douglas Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, along with two pedestrian crosswalks raised 31/2 inches from the roadway and including LED lights. A second design envisions a roadway without the two roundabouts.
Jerry Dabkowski, consultant and senior vice president with George F. Young, assured those in attendance that Dunedin’s traffic circles would be nothing like Clearwater Beach’s roundabout, because it would direct just one lane of traffic in each direction proving for a much more controlled and easier flow. It would slow traffic and make Skinner more pedestrian friendly.
About 12,000 cars a day traverse the Skinner portion of S.R. 580, compared to 20,000 cars near CR1 and 50,000 cars at U.S. 19, he said. With the proposed design the Skinner section of State Road 580 will not reach handling its peak capacity until 2048.
The design that garners the most approval will be presented to Forward Pinellas, which is the planning council and metropolitan planning organization for Pinellas County, the City Commission and Department of Transportation.
The city was recently awarded a $100,000 planning grant from Forward Pinellas to design a road and streetscaping strategy for Skinner Boulevard with the overriding goal of improving safety. Since Skinner Boulevard is also a portion of State Road 580. Any changes must comply with Department of Transportation guidelines and policies. The project is also eligible to obtain a $1 million Forward Pinellas grant for its construction phase.
One design concept would feature two-lanes of traffic in both directions from Alt. U.S. 19 to the Pinellas Trail to prevent stacking of cars. Motorists would then merge into one lane in each direction from the Pinellas Trail to Bass Boulevard traveling at 25 mph. A second design features two lanes of traffic from the trail west to Alt. U.S. 19, but only one lane of traffic heading east from Alt. U.S. 19 to the Trail. Then, even that design envisions one lane of traffic in each direction from the trail to Bass Boulevard.
The roadway would include two 12-foot travel lanes, two 7-foot bike lanes and 6 feet of landscaped sidewalks on both sides of the Skinner. Corner curb outs and landscaped center medians will provide pedestrians with more safe space to cross the street, the consultant said.
In addition, immediate improvements would add mast arm signal at Bass Boulevard, matching those throughout the downtown area
According to available statistics 80 accidents have been reported along the stretch of road from 2014 to 2018, involving two pedestrians, 8 bicyclists and 70 autos.
Dabkowski said the traffic calming would help address Skinner’s most dangerous intersection, where it meets the Pinellas Trail. Many in attendance voiced concern that bicyclists do not stop at the blinking light before dangerously dashing through the intersection.
Some suggested a railroad-like crossing bar be installed to halt bicyclists, while Dabkowski said new sensors and blinking lights might help prevent accidents. The consultant said DOT is giving priority to addressing Pinellas Trail crossing concerns and enacting improvements.
A comment by Shelly Jaffe, co-owner with her husband Lawrence of The Scone Age Bakery and Café near the trail crossing, attracted the interest of consultants when she noted blinding sunlight might make it difficult to see the traffic signal at certain times of the day. Dabkowski asked staff to suggest the instillation of sun blinders on the blinking signal to make it easier to see.
Resident John Swan, who walks the trail every morning, said he loves the redesign that will reduce the speed along the road to 25 mph.
Most in attendance favored the roundabout design. Christy Jones, who operates The Edinburgh Fringe Men’s and Women’s Boutique, at 602 Skinner Blvd. near Milwaukee Avenue, said the new design will make Skinner visually and aesthetically appealing and give it a look similar to downtown.
She said she appreciated that the design addressed parking and provided room for delivery vehicles. The concept with the traffic circle also will slow down the traffic to make Skinner more pedestrian friendly. Jones said many pedestrians are already walking along Skinner to visit the shops; She added she loves Downtown Dunedin and won’t want to have opened her shop anywhere else.
Deborah Stagg, owner of the Tampa Bay Interiors, a home goods store at 638 Skinner Blvd., said she also likes the proposed design with the roundabout.
Newly elected Dunedin Commissioner Jeff Gow, who attended the meeting, said the design with the roundabout seems more appealing.
Commissioner Maureen Freaney said she is leaning in a certain direction but wants to wait to hear comments during the commission hearing before making her final decision.
Commissioner Heather Gracey, who also attended, said she heard the choice of those attending the meeting who favored the roundabout for safety, but will wait until the commission meeting to make up her mind.
In another recent resident survey the top request was for a golf cart crossing along Skinner. Dabkowski said the slowed traffic design will allow DOT to consider permitting a golf cart crossing along the .5 mile stretch of roadway. The next most requested feature was for improved lighting, followed by proposed roundabouts and mid-block crossings.
There will be one more public meeting Monday, Feb. 4, at 6 p.m. at the Mease Hospital auditorium. According to the proposed timetable, in March blueprint concepts will be presented to the City Commission and Forward Pinellas, with the City Commission approving a final design in May.