SAFETY HARBOR — The worst of it comes last.
A nearly completed $2.2 million construction project aims to alleviate flooding along S Bayshore Boulevard, but first it's going to tangle downtown Safety Harbor traffic.
The city begins detouring cars Tuesday near the east end of Main Street. It's the first of two phases of road closures over the next six weeks.
"There is no good time to do that, but it has to get done," said city spokesman Brad Purdy. "We planned it out as best we could to get people around that site. It's not going to be convenient, and it's not ideal at all."
Construction crews need to dig up the roads to replace underground stormwater pipes, Purdy said.
The first closure will occur on Bayshore Boulevard between the city marina and the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa, without impeding access to those facilities, he said. Traffic will shift to Second Avenue S.
Starting Sept. 18, the city will also shut down the busy intersection of Bayshore Boulevard, Main Street and Philippe Parkway.
Both phases will keep the roads closed until Oct. 15.
"We're going to try to keep that footprint as small as possible," Purdy said, adding that the city will attempt to avoid blocking businesses or street parking.
The major road closures follow about a year of construction on Bayshore Boulevard. City officials postponed the work while the Tennessee delegation stayed in Safety Harbor for last week's Republican National Convention.
The first phase might create a business boost at Dominics Italian Grille and Pizzeria on Main Street, said employee Joe McDougall, because traffic will flow in front of the restaurant.
But the second phase routes cars around the block, which McDougall said could cause the pizzeria to lose walk-in customers.
On the other side of Main Street, merchant B.J. McMullen Lehman anticipates slow business at her McMullen Flower Shop.
"People won't have any place to park," she said. "They won't have any way to come down this way."
Construction might deter walk-in customers, but she hopes loyal patrons will carry her through the six weeks and she expects to take more orders over the phone.
The construction project is a badly needed fix for a road with a history of flooding, said city engineer Bill Baker. With Bayshore Boulevard at the same elevation as the bay, water pooled during rainstorms without having anywhere to go.
"It was kind of a stalemate at times," Baker said.
While flooding issues can't be completely resolved, the project changed the slope of the road — "surgically, almost," Baker said — to improve stormwater runoff. The city also installed new stormwater pipes under the road.
Other new stormwater features include seven big, $70,000 treatment devices underground that filter debris, he said. Grass and plants in several small ditches, called swales, absorb pollutants from the runoff.
"It's not just an improvement of a road," Baker said. "It's the hope that we can improve the water quality that's going into Tampa Bay."
He estimates the changes will reduce the amount of pollution flowing into the bay by 7,300 pounds annually.
The project won two grants because of its goal to mitigate pollution, he said: $800,000 from the Southwest Florida Water Management District and $1.3 million from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The city of Safety Harbor will cover $800,000 of the cost of the construction, which will also replace old sewer and water lines under the road.
After the roads reopen, the city will repave Bayshore Boulevard. All the work wraps up in mid-November, Baker said.
The project has taken a little longer than expected, he said, with delays for the RNC and for some construction materials. Crews were also surprised to find a layer of clay under the road, which kept water from draining properly until they could pipe around it.
Stephanie Wang can be reached at (727) 445-4155 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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