OLDSMAR, Fla. — Faster safety improvements could be possible at a so-called dangerous Oldsmar intersection.
Forward Pinellas, an agency that advocates for and funds transportation improvements throughout Pinellas County, said it’s open to pursuing improvements at the intersection of S. Bayview Boulevard and St. Petersburg Drive W. more immediately.
On Saturday, Mar. 26, 6-year-old Lia Sorsby, was hit and killed near the intersection. Her 10-year-old sister and mother were also hit.
According to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, the three were crossing the street right as the driver of a white Nissan Altima made the left turn from Bayview Blvd. onto St. Petersburg Dr. and hit them. Deputies, who are still investigating the crash, said the mother and her daughters were not in the crosswalk at the time. Neighbors, however, said that detail is beside the point.
During an Apr. 5 meeting of the Oldsmar City Council, neighbors and Sorsby’s father, Jason, implored city leaders to make immediate improvements to the intersection.
“I don’t want this to happen to anybody’s children,” he said through tears. “There’s something that has to be done immediately.”
The City of Oldsmar was planning an improvement project for the intersection even before the recent tragedy.
Daniel Simpson, the city’s public works director, said Oldsmar is using a million-dollar grant from Forward Pinellas to turn the intersection into a “complete street.” The project calls for a reduced speed, better streetscaping, and a roundabout at the intersection. However, construction might not be complete until late 2024 or early 2025.
“What can we do now?” asked Councilman Jarrod Buchman in the Apr. 5 meeting. “We’re not waiting until 2025.”
According to Forward Pinellas Executive Director Whit Blanton, the agency is open to shepherding more immediate improvements.
“I pay attention to every fatality we have on our roadways, and it really hurts, especially when it’s a young child,” Blanton said, late last week. “For safety projects, we’re working with our partners at the county and the State of Florida to accelerate safety projects when there’s a known problem, so if you have a fatality, if you have serious injuries, and we have the data to back that up, we can expedite transportation solutions that mitigate that cause of an injury or a fatality.”
Blanton said the intersection could be upgraded with high-visibility crosswalks with relative ease. There’s also a potential to make the intersection a four-way stop until the future roundabout is constructed.
“Adding lighting, adding high-visibility markings — things like that — are typically lower-cost solutions that we can probably get done very quickly,” he said.
Blanton said he’s ready to discuss those options, if and when Oldsmar requests them.
Oldsmar Mayor Dan Saracki said he’s “all for” more immediate improvements and is willing to discuss them with Forward Pinellas.
“I feel like communication is the key to success with this,” the mayor said.
Additionally, in recent days, Saracki said the city installed additional signs at the intersection to warn drivers of the two-way stop. The city has also hired an outside engineering firm to initiate a traffic study to determine if speed at the intersection can be reduced.
Meanwhile, Blanton said his agency would like more involvement from citizens across Pinellas County to prevent unfortunate incidents like the one that killed Sorsby.
“The public can really do a lot of good in identifying and highlighting safety issues, but it doesn’t do much good to do it on Facebook,” he said. “We have a Citizens Advisory Committee. We have a Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee. We are seeking members to join those. They can go to the Forward Pinellas website and find all the information they need.”
Additionally, he said the agency is open to receiving emails and phone calls from citizens with complaints about potentially dangerous roadways and intersections.
You can contact Forward Pinellas at 727-464-8250, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by filling out the form at this link.
“We need to get beyond accepting that there are 30-40,000 fatalities in the nation every year. We wouldn't accept that in our airline industry, and we wouldn’t accept that in the train industry,” Blanton said. “Why do we accept that on our roadways?”