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Pinellas launches interactive transportation website to get public feedback

Suncoast News staff report
Published:   |   Updated: May 16, 2013 at 09:16 PM

Ever been stewing behind the wheel of an idling vehicle? Sitting behind and among rows of other motors in the same situation while thinking of all the traffic easement ideas that could be implemented but not knowing who to tell them to?

Pinellas County has created a site just for you.

Transportation Department officials are seeking public comment via a website at www.telluspi nellas.com as the Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization works toward updating its 30-year plan.

"We want to engage the public in a dialogue about issues, needs, and strategies to achieve community goals, such as strengthening our economy and improving accessibility," Sarah Ward, interim executive director of the Pinellas County MPO, said in a press release.

The MPO is the county's top transportation planning agency.

After signing into the website, visitors are invited to post suggestions and then browse and comment upon what other users have written. Enhancing the interaction is the capability to upload photos or video footage of whatever area or topic is being discussed.

A list of forum topics are provided down the left sidebar of the site, some of which include transportation needs, congested roads and safety concerns and asking which city the county should model. Users can jump into those current discussions or post about whatever concerns they may have.

"The intent is definitely to get the people to take part and see what they want their transportation system to look like," said Al Bartolotta, a planning manager with the MPO. "The other thing that's nice about this is that it creates a forum to exchange ideas. People can kind of piggyback on one another."

Beyond having an easily accessible outlet for residents to air their traffic-related opinions, Bartolotta thinks users will appreciate the return feedback they eventually receive from county officials.

The MPO is in the early stages of updating its next long-range transportation plan. It isn't slated to be considered, however, until December 2014.

But as public comments are reviewed and analyzed, officials will repeatedly come back to the site while drafting the 30-year plan to show how that input has been utilized.

"This initial phase is part of getting people's input on what their priorities are," Bartolotta said. "Once we get everybody's input we'll start to roll out a draft of long-range highway and long-range transit plans and all of the strategies and we'll put that back out to give the folks an idea of how their comments fit in and how they were utilized in terms of developing the plan."

Based on comments received from the website and other sources, Bartolotta said, much of the public's recent concerns and interests tend to involve alternative transit options and safety.

"We've always had a pretty aggressive capital improvement program when it comes to road building, but I think people are kind of sensing that we've kind of built all the roads we can build and we need to be looking at some alternatives now.

"Transit is becoming an area of interest and people are really starting to take a serious look at that as a future way to move people."

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