SEMINOLE, Fla. — Day after day, the scene just outside Cherie Pruss’ home leaves her frustrated, annoyed, and worried. Twice a day, she’s greeted by a wall of traffic.
“Right now, it’s very bad. It’s very bad,” she said. “It’s a safety concern.”
Pruss lives on 65th Avenue North near the intersection of 104th Street. Five days a week, a long line of cars blocks her narrow neighborhood street and others in the area surrounding Orange Grove Elementary School.
Pruss said the problem is the school’s car line. Like clockwork, the line extends from the school’s property onto surrounding streets during drop-off in the morning and pick-up in the early afternoon.
“They won’t let anybody into the street — in or out of the street — they block the whole road. Sometimes, they’re blocked all the way up to Seminole Boulevard,” said Pruss.
She said the gridlock potentially endangers neighbors in emergency situations. Pruss said it also creates unsafe conditions for people on walking or biking and spurs road rage.
“A guy in a minivan coming through to pick up his kids drove by and blocked the street — thought my husband was trying to cut in into the line, and he was just trying to turn down the street, and the man threatened the shoot my husband,” she said.
Last year, according to minutes posted on the city’s website, neighbors brought the concerns to Seminole City Council multiple times.
While Seminole City Manager Ann Toney Deal said she’d heard no complaints about the car line since the new school year started, she’s familiar with the problem.
“It is my understanding that there have been some queuing challenges with a few parents, and signage has been ordered, by the school, to alleviate parents from not following the appropriate pick-up protocols,” she wrote in an email.
According to Isabel Mascareñas, a public information officer for Pinellas County Schools, much of the back-up is caused by parents entering the carline from both directions on 104th Street.
Mascareñas said the principal of Orange Grove Elementary has reminded parents, in a recent newsletter, that they should only enter the car line by traveling south from the intersection of 66th Avenue North and 104th Street and making a left turn into the car line area "to keep traffic moving smoothly."
According to Mascareñas, the district will be putting up a 'No Right Turn' sign at the car line entrance — possibly as soon as this week — to inform parents of pick-up and drop-off times and the proper procedures.
Neighbors like Donna Graham hope that the annoying — even dangerous — problem will soon be fixed.
“Honestly? It’s a pain in the a**. It’s a pain in the a**. I mean, people don’t consider you. They just line up. They take this whole road. Now, they’re leaving a little bit of space for you, but you’re taking your life in your own hands to get out of here,” said Graham. “Between 8:00 and 8:30 and 2:30 to 3:00. You don’t even want to go out of your house.”
Pruss thinks more lanes, more organization, and a faster pick-up/drop-off system might alleviate the problem.