CLEARWATER — Crews will pave the final roundabout in Morningside Estates on Monday, the finishing touch on a $1.4 million traffic-calming project slowed by months of delays and neighborhood complaints.
But despite those problems and the economic downturn, planning already is under way on traffic-calming projects for three more Clearwater neighborhoods: Brookhill, Wood Valley and Greenlea-Otten. For those, officials said, the work should run much more smoothly.
Construction is scheduled to begin in Wood Valley by the end of the year, and Brookhill and Greenlea-Otten near the start of 2012. Like Morningside, the neighborhoods were among eight targeted in 2000 for traffic-calming work, and a majority of their residents approved the work by petition.
The Morningside project was beset by last-minute changes, and some construction had to be redone. The city gave the project priority in 2007, after a speeding car smashed into a neighborhood oak tree, killing the two men inside.
Crews installed a dozen "speed tables," wider and shorter than speed bumps, as temporary slowdowns while the traffic-calming project got under way. But crews found a surprise: an underground network of old drainage pipes unmarked in city drawings. The city rushed to re-engineer as construction and detours frayed residents' nerves.
"They all wanted it originally, but there was a lot of frustration," city traffic operations manager Paul Bertels said. "Your neighborhood is like your refuge. You're wondering if you're going to have a job next week, then all of a sudden you've got this big thing in your neighborhood."
The project in Morningside has involved construction of five roundabouts, numerous landscaped "bump-outs" and speed tables with brick accents. One detour remains in place.
Bertels said the size difference between Morningside and the three projects being designed will help prevent similar delays.
"The next three coming up are not nearly as big," Bertels said. "The bigger it is, the more you have to cut it up to do the work."
Though there will be fewer detours in those neighborhoods, there will be more underground construction on some roads as crews install drainage to fight flooding during heavy rain.
Carl Schrader, who helps coordinate the Brookhill Neighborhood Association, said he's happy to hear the work will begin soon. The neighborhood — between Highland and Missouri avenues and Lakeview and Belleair roads — has had its share of speeding and crashes.
The father of a son in elementary school, Schrader said he'd like the peace of mind that traffic calming could bring. But other residents have questioned how the changes could affect their driving and parking.
"There's a little apprehension, but for the most part people are supportive," Schrader said. "There will be some surprises, no doubt about it."
On Monday, crews in Morningside will pave the final roundabout, on Harn Boulevard, and finish striping work. The project ends about four months behind schedule.
"People forgot why we were doing it in the first place," said Norene Marlow, the president of the Morningside-Meadows Homeowners Association. "The residents are ready for it to be finished. … I hope the other neighborhoods have more success."
Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 445-4170 or [email protected]