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Forward Pinellas approves “complete streets” program

in The Bay and the 'Burg by

Forward Pinellas board members approved a “complete streets” program Wednesday and a pilot project to show how it will work.

The pilot project will focus on West Bay Drive between the Clearwater-Largo Road and the bridge leading from Belleair Bluffs to the beaches. The goal will be to develop a concept that would eventually transform that stretch of road from one inhospitable to pedestrians and bicyclists into one that’s safe and inviting for cars, pedestrians, bicycles and other forms of travel.

Whit Blanton
Whit Blanton

Coming up with the concept is expected to cost less than $50,000, said Whit Blanton, executive director of Forward Pinellas. Forward Pinellas is the new name for the agency formed when the Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Pinellas Planning Council merged.

Chelsea Favero, a planner with Forward Pinellas, said “complete streets” is a transportation policy that requires streets to be safe and accessible to all modes of travel, not just traditional vehicles. The concept has garnered attention in Pinellas with St. Petersburg, the county and Clearwater looking at creating their own programs.

The Forward Pinellas program has two parts – a conceptual component and a construction component. The goal is to award one conceptual grant and one construction grant each year. The conceptual grants would be no more than $100,000. The construction grants would be no more than $1 million.

Government agencies would have to apply for the grants and Forward Pinellas will decide who gets the grant.

In the case of conceptual grants, the idea is to help pay for the design of a project that would not only be inviting for all types of transportation but would also help spur redevelopment. The government must also be willing to contribute money to the project.

In the case of construction grants, the applicant would have to show that the project allows for multiple modes of transportation. It would also have to help spur redevelopment. Any rights of way needed will already be acquired. As in the case of the conceptual grant, the government has to be willing to contribute funding.

“We want projects that are ready to go,” Favero said.

Blanton said the West Bay Drive project is perfect as a pilot to demonstrate how the complete streets program will work.

West Bay, he said, is unwelcoming to bicyclists because there are no bike lanes on portions of the road. Nor are there any medians, or refuge areas, for pedestrians who need to cross the road. That’s especially true the closer the road gets to the bridge. And, he said, cars are traveling well above the 30 miles per hour that’s required on most of that road.

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