Over the past 34 years Carolyn Huffer has seen Gulfport and it's neighboring cities expand, however she's also witnessed growing pains. As the population increased, so have the cars and she's seen plenty of them speeding past her front yard.
"We have many, many more children," Huffer said.
Huffer and her neighbors say they routinely see drivers accelerate on 7th Ave S. to the tune of 15 to 25 miles per hour above the current speed limit of 25 mph. The problem area is between 58th St. S. and 64th St. S., according to Huffer.
"65 to 75 percent of the cars are through traffic," Huffer said.
Huffer, joined with four neighbors from 7th Ave S. pleaded for help during the Tuesday night City Council Meeting. It wasn't the first time Huffer asked for action. Although she lives on the St. Pete side of the street, she's been fighting for a solution for the past five years, even addressing precious Gulfport councilors. Since then, she says the city has decreased the speed limit from 30 to 25 mph and added small reflectors on the streets.
However, she says those efforts aren't working and something more permanent may help. Speed bumps or speed "humps" may be the next step, Huffer said.
"I can’t understand what the problem is, St. Pete has them, Clearwater has them, Largo has them, what is the problem?” Huffer asked the council.
Her neighbors asked similar questions and shared their concerns.
"It's very, very dangerous," Shirely Calamari said. Calamari and her husband also live on the St. Pete side of the street and have been for 12 years.
"You don't feel it until you get in the shoes of the people who live there," Val Daskalov, Gulfport resident since 2006, said.
"With the traffic flying as it is, we're going to need emergency vehicles," Jane Neal said. Jane and Steve Neal have lived on the St. Petersburg side of 7th Ave S. for more than five years.
Steve Neal says he's spoken to officials with St. Petersburg who has said they'll install speed humps at no charge. Neal says according to a study conducted by St. Petersburg, they would be "willing to pay for the speed humps," he said.
"They recognize it's a problem," Neal told Gulfport Patch following the discussion.
Steve Neal says when this issue came up a couple years ago Gulfport didn't consider installing speed humps or speed bumps because, he was told, it's a liability. Neal says he's also talked to Gulfport Police Officers about ticketing violators and has heard that officers don't ticket speeders until they exceed 15 mph over the limit.
Gulfport Police Chief Robert Vincent maintains that the department's standards are to stop drivers going 10 mph over and adds that Gulfport officers already write more citations than most officers with nearby departments.
The entire discussion became a hot topic during the regular council meeting after Dr. Bob Brown of Cardno/TBE presented a traffic calming program. According to Brown, a full traffic calming study would cost $9,000.
A full study would include:
- measuring daily traffic
- analyzing speed and volume
- studying the neighborhood
- preparing petitions
- performing public meetings
- designating the affected area
- providing a list of current property owners
- reviewing signatures
- developing solutions
- preparing drawings for the devices
- including signage
- including pavement markings
Council member Jennifer Salmon expressed concern over spending $9,000 on a study that would only apply to one problem area. Salmon suggested the city look at what they could do "in house" with city staff and the police department. Perhaps anything the city could not complete could be contracted out with Dr. Brown.
During the presentation Brown stated that speed "humps" would cost $3,000 per pair. Council member Jennifer Salmon says speed "humps" were her favorite option. Salmon says while 7th Ave S. is one of the problem areas, there are other neighborhoods that have been brought to her attention including 59th St. S., 54th St. S. and Beach Boulevard.
Council member Barbara Banno suggested partnering with the St. Petersburg Police Department and work together a couple times a year to pin point that area and catch speeders.
"I think if we dedicate some time to that, it might address the issue,” Banno said.
Vice Mayor Sam Henderson stated he wanted to further discuss the issue at an upcoming workshop when Mayor Mike Yakes could be present, citing Yakes' decades of experience with FDOT as an asset in this situation. Salmon added that she would like to address the speeding issues before the end of the year.
The Gulfport City Council are already meeting on Thursday, Oct. 18 at 3:30 p.m. for a workshop and will discuss when to add this issue on an upcoming workshop at that time.
To view the city's agenda, including the traffic calming program discussion item check out the City of Gulfport's website.