OLDSMAR, Fla. — At the intersection of Bayview Boulevard and West St. Petersburg Drive sits a memorial for 6-year-old Lia Sorsby. It’s a reminder of how she died, and an example of why people who live in the area continue to demand safety improvements at the intersection.
“Something has to be done,” said Joseph Cook, who lives on St. Petersburg Dr.
Cook has lived there for 24 years, and he said he's seen lots of crashes out there. He said he was outside Saturday night, when Lia, her 10-year-old sister and their mother were hit.
“It was horrible,” Cook said. “I stayed up all night thinking about it.”
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 onto St. Petersburg. The driver hit them. Investigators said the mother and her daughters were not in the crosswalk at the time.
Cook and several of his neighbors said whether or not they were in the crosswalk isn’t the issue. They said the intersection isn’t safe, and they’ve been complaining about it for years.
“We all have, “ Cook said. “It’s time something is done to make the road safer. Oldsmar is growing. It’s not the same small town it used to be.”
Oldsmar’s Public Works Director Daniel Simpson acknowledged the complaints. He said he has personally investigated several crashes and implemented safety improvements where they were needed. For example, he had the crosswalk put at the intersection, several new street signs, signs warning drivers on Bayview that St. Petersburg Dr. does not have stop signs at the intersection.
He said there are plans to bring more safety improvements to W. St. Petersburg Dr. Prior to Saturday’s fatal crash, Forward Pinellas approved a $1-million grant for the Complete Streets Program. Simpson said the work will start this year moving all of the utility lines underground. He said a streetscape project will be next, and that work will start in 2023. The plan also includes a roundabout at Bayview and St. Petersburg. According to Simpson, the plan is to start that by 2024.
Some question the city’s decision to put a roundabout in instead of a traffic light, 4-way stop or flashing caution lights.
“A roundabout is more appropriate when you have different volumes of traffic at each intersection,” Simpson said. “With St. Pete Drive being the dominate road and Bayview having less traffic, a roundabout is better for efficiency and safety.”
As long as city leaders don’t change the plans for the budget, Simpson said this project could be completed by or before 2025.