Widening of 102nd Avenue North Under Review Again
By Nick Fritsch
In February, the county commissioners reviewed a proposal to widen this avenue from two lanes to four. This need was identified in the early to mid 1980’s and was added to the capital improvement plan in 1993. This just illustrates a fact which most of us realize; that road improvements to reduce congestion on Pinellas roads is 15-25 years behind the obvious point of need.
Well, 102nd Avenue’s time has come. We are ready to go. It has crept through the planning, competing priorities, preliminary design and engineering and now is center stage. But wait; the local residents are now opposed. They claim, “It is a road to no where.” “It would disrupt the neighborhood atmosphere and add unnecessary traffic.”
Let’s look closely at the facts. Traffic congestion is the top complaint of most of us. The only way we can survive is a network of roads that provide alternative routes from the over used primary roads. 102nd extends directly from Bryan Dairy Road. Together, both of them provide an alternative route from Ulmerton, which is and will be under construction in stages for approximately the next ten years.
A consulting engineering firm has stated that it is operating at double its design capacity. The need is compelling. Together with Bryan Diary and 118th, they directly link the commercial, retail and institutional uses on the eastern two-thirds of the county. They directly link to I-275 south. 102nd is sandwiched between four lanes on both ends. It is rated as a minor arterial road. Arterial is the highest density urban category for roads below highways. So rather than a neighborhood street, it is designated as County Road 296. A road to no where? The facts clearly trump that local opinion.
What troubles the writer, and I would hope many of us who find traffic frustrating, is that now when the improvement is ready to move forward; a local effort has been mounted to oppose the approval and deny a measurable addition to the Pinellas road network. The facts overwhelm the opinions of the neighborhood and deny a 20-year needed improvement for the rest of us. Neighbors offer an alternative plan to add a 3rd lane for turning and some intersection improvements. The consultant quickly responded that the plan for three lanes will not increase the capacity. So why do it?
It is troubling when professional staff that is supported by independent consultants are in unison to improve our traffic for all too obvious needs and benefits for the rest of us. But then, their reasoned proposal is potentially derailed for local prerogatives. If every significant road improvement has to have a neighborhood seal of approval along the route, where will we ever move forward to traffic improvements? The board of county commissioners is scheduled to make their decision this month.
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