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Tuesday, Apr 24, 2018
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DOT urges fixes for deadly Clearwater crossing

— Months after a hit-and-run crash killed a beloved crossing guard at the intersection of Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard and Belcher Road, state and local transportation experts have finalized a long list of safety improvements for the dangerous spot.

The report, released Wednesday, expands upon preliminary recommendations released last month. Most are tweaks, such as putting fresh coats of paint on crosswalk bars and adding yellow left-hand turn arrows to traffic signals. Others involve extending or adding a turn lane to ease congestion.

The incident that spurred the study was the May 20 death of crossing guard Doug Carey, a retired police officer who was struck and killed by a rental car driven by Julious Johnson, who police say ran a red light.

Carey was well-liked and mourned extensively by the community surrounding Oak Grove Middle School, the area in which he served.

Johnson had two small daughters with him at the time of the accident. He fled the scene on foot, without his daughters, both of whom were injured. He was arrested several blocks away and charged with leaving the scene of an accident involving death, leaving the scene of a crash involving serious injury, child neglect with great bodily harm and several other charges.

The incident prompted local and state officials to seek improvements at the intersection, which is notoriously dangerous for pedestrians.

The recommendations made in the report do not fall under a single plan. Some will be wrapped into future road improvement projects, such as road resurfacing or yet-to-be-built developments slated near the intersection. Others were relegated to the city of Clearwater or to Pinellas County, such as making part of the intersection compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

The DOT has been tasked with constructing a right-hand turn lane at westbound Gulf-to-Bay and “optimizing” traffic-light timing so pedestrians don't have to wait as long.

A DOT spokeswoman said the department will monitor the progress of each of the projects.

Roughly 38,000 cars travel through the intersection each day, the DOT estimates. In the past five years, 153 crashes have occurred there — 68 rear-end collisions, 39 at night and 39 involving drivers who were making a turn. While Carey was the only one to have died there, 13 crashes have caused “incapacitating injuries,” and 13 have involved pedestrians or bicyclists, the preliminary report said.


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