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What’s all that mystery construction along 1st Avenue South?

Bill DeYoung

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Construction work at the intersection of 1st Avenue S and 22nd Street. Photo by Bill DeYoung.

Motorists making their way from west to east along 1st Avenue South have been encountering traffic flow disruptions, in the form of lane closures and complex, unexplained construction activity.

The concrete structures along the north side of the one-way thoroughfare – in the two left lanes – will become passenger pickup and deposit stations for SunRunner, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority express bus service connecting downtown with St. Pete Beach.

Similar stations will rise along 1st Avenue N., for the buses heading west on the SunRunner loop.

SunRunner buses are expected to begin operating in 2022, stopping at each station approximately every 15 minutes.

An early rendering of the SunRunner station in front of Black Crow Coffee and Tombolo Books. The oak trees were removed. Illustration: PSTA.

“We knew when they announced it last year that we were going to lose our parking, but we didn’t know how much,” said Candice Anderson, co-owner of Tombolo Books, 2153 1st Avenue S, in the Grand Central District. PSTA began construction of a station in front of the bookstore, and neighboring Black Crow Coffee, in early May.

Anderson said that PSTA representatives have been timely in answering questions from worried business owners. The curb in front of Tombolo and Black Crow was re-located, which necessitated the removal of two oak trees. “We miss the trees, but honestly we’re a little easier to see without the trees,” Anderson said.

“We’re trying to keep an attitude of compromise here. We survived the pandemic. I’m not going to let this break my stride.”

Each bus station, ultimately, will be fully landscaped.

“That’s a concern,” Anderson said. “Once it’s up, will our customers be able to find us? But that’s something that we just have to take head-on. We’re hoping to see an upside from it, in terms of people discovering us.”

A SunRunner station under construction at 1st Avenue S and 58th Street. Photo by Bill DeYoung.

Customers, Anderson added, inquire every day about the construction site outside Tombolo’s front door.

“We are philosophically pro-public transportation,” she said. “We don’t want to be NIMBY-ous. We understand everyone has to make some compromises. We know it’s good for the city to have some more public transportation.

“Another way to look at it: It’s going to run from downtown to Grand Central. People don’t have to ride it all the way to the beach. People who are coming here to see the pier, to see the museums, can jump on the bus, ride it to Grand Central, shop here and ride back.

“Our philosophy has been: Make an obstacle an opportunity. We’re looking at it that way.”

PSTA SunRunner website.

PSTA rendering.

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Avatar

    James

    June 28, 2021at8:05 am

    Does anyone know if they are going to take out the bike lane on first avenue north as well? Also, if there are plans to relocate them anywhere? Love to see the sunrunner come in but still think it’s important to have lanes for bikers.

  2. Avatar

    JOHN BURGESS

    June 28, 2021at5:14 pm

    The bus service to/from St. Pete Beach has been running for years without tearing up 1st Ave N and 1st Ave S. The capital cost including all the construction as well as the new buses is 100% paid for by taxpayers, currently estimated to be about $50 Million. PSTA’s hope is that the influx of taxpayers’ money will save them from impending bankruptcy.
    Their justification for this project is similar to their justification for the $3.3 Billion train from St. Petersburg to Clearwater: if we add more buses, more people will ride the buses (estimated to be 5,000/day). Voters/taxpayers were not invited to approve this huge expenditure.
    Hopefully the PSTA board will be held accountable for the performance (or lack of) for this project. It will result in fewer vehicle lanes on 1st Avenues and S. Pasadena and added congestion on Gulf Blvd to 40th Ave. with only three stops on Gulf Blvd.
    After all, taking $50 Million from taxpayers is not a trivial amount. If the operating costs are similar to the current PSTA average, riders will pay about 20% of operating costs, taxpayers will fund 80% in addition to the 100% of capital costs.
    Is it really a worthwhile investment of our taxes? This very expensive bus route was approved and implemented by the same county commission that is now proposing to add a 5% gas tax to the 6% we currently pay, the end result being almost doubled to 11%.
    The 5% increase transfers about $54 Million/year from our income to the county, taking $54 Million out of our economy.
    This trend will never end until voters wake up and start voting for fiscally responsible city and county “leaders.”

  3. Avatar

    Georgia

    June 28, 2021at6:32 pm

    They took out my bike lane! And, there doesn’t appear to be a substitute. I thought that Complete Streets was supposed to be more pedestrian and cyclist friendly. On the other hand, my husband and some of my friends don’t like to cycle that close to traffic, so i it’s not the end of the world. Thank you for covering this issue!

  4. Avatar

    Karen Garcia

    June 28, 2021at7:56 pm

    Yes they will be doing the same on 1sr Ave N. I read in a TBT article that Central Ave would gain a bike lane E/W but there is no budget or actual plan for that yet. Bummer!

  5. Avatar

    Alsace Walentine

    July 1, 2021at8:29 am

    Regarding the BIKE LANES!
    “The lanes are being moved by the City to Central Ave. up until 34th St. Then to the east of 34th, the lanes will switch to/remain on 1st Ave. There’s a map on this webpage, which is expected to be updated soon with greater details from the city.”– 6/30/21 according to Bob Lasher via an email

    https://psta.mysocialpinpoint.com/sunrunner_construction

  6. Avatar

    Bobby Gee

    August 29, 2021at2:12 am

    It will operate at a loss, like most public transportation. Nice looking buses, though.

  7. Avatar

    Pam

    December 1, 2021at11:10 am

    I’m waiting for someone to drive into one of those concrete barriers. Since these are one-way avenues you can drive in all lanes, but then suddenly a concrete barrier appears, forcing you to move to another lane. I don’t see how this arrangement will be safe, especially for drivers, but time will tell.

  8. Avatar

    William Manning

    January 5, 2022at2:37 pm

    I agree with Pam above, but it’s not about driver’s safety, it’s about spending more of someone else’s money. Turn the lanes into parking places

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