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Some Tampa Bay roads are going on a 'diet:' Will it impact your commute?

Skinner Blvd. in Dunedin targeted for changes
Posted at 5:27 PM, Jan 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-31 05:57:47-05

DUNEDIN, Fla. —Cyclists and walkers say they’re putting their lives on the line crossing one of the busiest portions of the Pinellas Trail, but now the city is looking at changes.

The area where the trail crosses over Skinner Boulevard is being targeted by the city of Dunedin to make the crossing less dangerous.

Some of the changes on tap: Reducing Skinner Boulevard from 4 lanes to 2 (one in each direction), adding round-a-bouts and reducing the speed limit from 35 to 25.

Cyclists and walkers say the changes are much needed. Although the intersection has a blinking pedestrian light, they say with 4 lanes of traffic all it takes is one car not paying attention to put them in danger.

Shelley Jaffe hears near misses every day from her Scone Age Bakery, which is just a few feet from the pedestrian crossing.

"It happens probably a dozen or more times a day, where we hear tires screeching and people yelling because they are nearly struck by a car," Jaffe said.

“Personally I’ve had near misses on a bicycle and walking,” walker Mindy said.

The trail crossing can attract up to a thousand walkers and bikers a day, especially on weekends. Conversely, nearly 12-thousand cars use Skinner Road daily.

According to Florida Highway Patrol data, over the past 4 years there have been more than 80 crashes on just a half-mile stretch of Skinner.

“It’s just a matter of time before something tragic happens,” Smith said with a sigh.

That's why Jerry Dabkowski, who is designing the Skinner Blvd. project, says the changes are so crucial.

“We’re really trying to make an effort to make it as safe as possible, as soon as possible," he said.

But won't making the road skinnier add to driver's commutes? It's something that worries Pete Britt who lives and works in Dunedin.

“I think it’s going to add a lot of congestion,” he explained.

Transportation leaders say on average making roads skinnier adds less than 10 minutes to driver's commutes because the roads that are chosen for "road diets" are often smaller and less traveled.

Across Tampa Bay, there are dozens of projects planned or recently constructed to make roads skinnier.