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Keystone Road widening project aims for completion by spring

Three years, 3 miles and $32 million later, the ongoing widening project of Keystone Road east of U.S. 19 is set for completion. By December, most of the road work will subside.

JAY NOLAN | Special to the Times

Three years, 3 miles and $32 million later, the ongoing widening project of Keystone Road east of U.S. 19 is set for completion. By December, most of the road work will subside.

TARPON SPRINGS — For two years, drivers on Keystone Road have peered out their windshields at a landscape of orange barrels and barricades.

What they're seeing: a three-year, $32 million road-widening project on a 3-mile stretch between U.S. 19 and East Lake Road.

It has forced cars to snake around construction dirt. It has slashed speed limits to 25 mph. It has confused, frustrated and backed up traffic.

And now, the end is in sight.

"You're going to start seeing it coming together really quickly," said Joe DeMoss, engineering supervisor for Pinellas County.

Work slowed slightly as construction crews dealt with a particularly rainy summer, DeMoss said. But within the next month or two, the underground work will be largely completed. By December, most of the road work will subside. The project may finish in the spring, he said, ahead of its summer 2013 completion date.

The Penny for Pinellas sales tax provided $25 million for the project, with an additional $7 million in funding from Pinellas County, the city of Tarpon Springs, Verizon and the Clearwater Gas System.

The road will more than double in size, expanding to four lanes from two. Its broad medians will allow it to grow as needed to six lanes. New utility lines now run below the road.

Also included in the work is a connecting section of the Pinellas Trail.

That part has tricked some folks who thought the trail was ready to use, DeMoss said. But it remains closed until the roadwork is done.

The segment of Keystone Road that's under construction winds between Lake Tarpon and Salt Lake and has numerous entrances to residential communities. For the few scattered businesses, construction has exacted a toll.

"It made us disappear," said Tammy Winters, who works at Rosie's Barber Shop on Keystone Road, near U.S. 19. "We can't be seen."

Customers sometimes can't tell when the shop is open, she said.

Down the road, a local fresh market closed. In its place, Rossella Rotondo opened a restaurant called Roe's Place.

"It's been absolutely horrendous," she said.

A sandwich board listing specials sits by the gap in construction barrels to entice cars to turn toward Roe's Place. But other than that, Rotondo says no amount of expensive advertising could lure customers to messy Keystone Road.

She has kept the restaurant open every day to make what business she can.

"It's going to be beautiful," Rotondo said, looking out onto the road, "but I just have to hang in till then."

Stephanie Wang can be reached at (727) 445-4155 or swang@tampabay.com. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

Keystone Road widening project aims for completion by spring 09/07/12 [Last modified: Friday, September 7, 2012 9:01pm]
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