CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) — Oh boy. The Florida Department of Transportation is improving another stretch of Ulmerton Road. This FDOT project is costing taxpayers $19.3, but the toll in aggravation is beyond measure. If you’re driving that way, You Paid For It both ways.
If you haven’t noticed, motorists who are traveling eastbound on Roosevelt Boulevard past the St. Pete–Clearwater International Airport are having a major “pardon our dust” moment when they reach the Ulmerton intersection. Horns are blaring, fists are pumping and blood pressure is rising as traffic reaches a standstill in the summer heat.
“It’s awful. It’s so bad,” remarked one motorist caught at the new traffic light.
“I think its terrible. I come through here all the time and I do not like it,” another offered.
The old single lane flyover bridge that for decades funneled eastbound vehicles from Roosevelt to Ulmerton has been demolished by FDOT contractors and replaced with a stop light as an ”interim project.” The plan is to prepare for the ultimate linkage of I-275, U.S. 19 and the Bayside Bridge. It’s known as the Gateway Project.
Contractor bids for the Gateway Project’s elevated highway links will go out to contractors in the spring. The DOT envisions that network as a series of toll roads that complement existing roadways. Officials produced an animated graphic to show what it will be like.
It’s all part of a grand plan for the future, but the reality for commuters transiting Pinellas County’s midsection today is not nearly as sweet.
Friday morning, when a major crash on the Courtney Campbell Causeway caused Tampa-bound commuters in Pinellas County to detour toward the Howard Frankland Bridge, there was a 30-minute wait at the Roosevelt and Ulmerton stoplight. On Monday morning commuters sat through numerous traffic light cycles and waited 10-12 minutes to pass through the intersection.
FDOT spokeswoman Kris Carson insists state traffic engineers are aware of backups at the intersection and are tweaking the timing of that stop light to minimize delays. During Monday morning’s rush hour, eastbound motorists on Roosevelt had 48 seconds to make it through the light. If they missed the light, they waited more than three minutes for their next opportunity. In some cases, 20 vehicles made it through before a light change. In other cases just four vehicles made it through.
More than a few people ended up running the red light, and there’s no telling how many jammed their way into the southbound lane after zooming down the right turn only lane on Roosevelt. By midda, the stoplight timing had changed to about 57 seconds for eastbound Roosevelt traffic and 2 minutes and 20 seconds for Ulmerton motorists.
Matters are further complicated by the ongoing widening of Ulmerton Road between 38th Street to the east and 49th Street to the west, a stretch that straddles the area where Roosevelt motorists join the fun.
Carson says it will be a while before things improve significantly at the intersection. “Approximately nine months for the temporary configuration it’s in now,” Carson said. “We are pushing the contractor to work as fast as possible.”
Meanwhile, among the many frustrated motorists rounding the airport toward Ulmerton Road, there was at least one driver who wasn’t at all bothered by all the stop-and-go traffic. “I think it’s a good idea,” he said. “It’s great, I like it.”
Contact the Florida Department of Transportation Secretary:
If you’d like to share your comments about the Ulmerton Road project or send a complaint to Florida DOT Secretary Jim Boxold, here’s how to reach him. Please copy me at mdouglas@wfla so I can follow-up on your concerns.
Florida DOT Secretary Jim Boxold
605 Suwanee St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399
Toll-Free (866) 374-3368
DOT agency contacts:
DOT district public affairs office:
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