Dangerous by design? Drivers concerned over Gulf To Bay/Belcher intersection

People say serious crash highlights danger
Posted at 6:09 PM, May 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-02 20:48:46-04

Drivers are begging for change at a busy Clearwater intersection after another serious crash at the intersection of Belcher Rd. and Gulf to Bay Blvd. Drivers tell ABC Action News they wonder if the intersection is dangerous by design.
Gulf to Bay/Belcher is a “smart” intersection, meaning it uses Pinellas County Insync technology, which means the light cycles change constantly depending on the volume of traffic. Drivers say that, combined with blinking yellow yield turn arrows, may be putting them in danger. 
Sheila McLean pulls up to the busy Clearwater intersection almost daily, and every time, her heart starts to race.

"I’m in fear for my life. Is someone going to pull out in front of me?," she explained.
The blinking left hand turn arrows, in place since 2014, cause drivers to yield to oncoming traffic, but McLean and others say since the timing of the signals varies drivers often have trouble judging whether they have enough time to turn.  

Ashley McGriff also drives through the intersection almost daily.

"It seems like if I’m going northbound or southbound on Belcher, it’s a mess," she added.
Over the past five years, there have been more than 480 crashes at Gulf to Bay and Belcher, where 170 people have been hurt and five killed, according to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Tuesday, the intersection was shut down for hours after a motorcycle and car collided.
"It’s scary! It is scary!," another driver, Deborah Marshall, said, referring to the spot where the crash occurred.

Clearwater Police say they’re still investigating what caused that crash, but drivers hope the county sees it as a wake up call to study the intersection before someone else gets hurt.
"What do they need? More proof? Someone else getting hurt or worse? I think it’s really worth looking into," McLean added.
Pinellas County leaders tell us signal timing and signal operation at this intersection, and others, is constantly adapting. Belcher is the bottle neck intersection for the corridor. The vehicle demand on Belcher is very high, so Belcher uses all its available green time.  

The vehicle demand on the side streets at the signalized intersections to east and west of Belcher are much less and they require less green time, so the east/west movements at these intersections get more green time - thus funneling more traffic down to Belcher than it can handle.  

Since traffic is so heavy, the county says this would be the case regardless of the type of coordination implemented at Belcher.  It is not unusual for an intersection the size of Belcher, and with the amount of demand, that traffic gets backed up.