Gondolas discussed as solution for Clearwater traffic problems

Clearwater's city council said it plans to have a serious discussion about Clearwater Beach's traffic congestion, and some council members may be looking up, toward the sky, for a solution.  

"I know Darryl LeClair has talked about gondola service," Mayor George Cretekos told FOX 13 News Wednesday. "Maybe we need to start looking at that a little bit more seriously with him, and see how serious he was in providing that service."

Calling it a gondola is the preferred term of Clearwater City Council Member, Doreen Hock-Dipolito, but she is generally referring to an elevated transit service.  

Dipolito said gondolas will be among her talking points February 1, when a city council workshop will focus on Clearwater Beach's traffic issues. The mayor said the conversation will also include possible upgrades to crosswalks and potentially, re-engineering some streets. 

"Are we going to look at maybe one way streets? Should we consider making Coronado Drive four lanes, as opposed to two lanes with a turn lane and parking?" the mayor asked.  

But both elected officials agree, the end game is to keep more cars from ever making it to the island.

New hotels - and there are several coming online soon - hopefully will not create much new traffic. Those provide parking for their guests and employees. 

"Most of the problem are day-trippers," Cretekos said, "We need to think about changing them, to car pool, to think about parking on the mainland and using public transportation of some sort."

The usual seasonal slumps in beach visitations have largely disappeared since the Great Recession, meaning the beach destination is increasingly clogged with cars. 

"Everything is on the table. Something has to be done because there will come a time when it starts to affect our ability to keep drawing visitors to the destination," Pinellas Tourism Director, David Downing confirmed.

A couple of years ago, St. Petersburg real estate developer Darryl LeClair presented his vision of an extensive network of gondolas at several closed-door meetings. He did not return a telephone call for comment on the renewed interest in his proposal.