ST. PETERSBURG — Navigating Gandy Boulevard is neither for the fainthearted nor the impatient, but change is on the way for drivers of the nearly 40,000 vehicles that clog the route on any given day.
More than two decades since it was first considered, the Florida Department of Transportation is preparing to begin major improvements on Gandy Boulevard, with work to be concentrated just west of 16th Street to east of Fourth Street.
Specifically, the $120 million project calls for an elevated road with six lanes, three in each direction, west of 16th Street N to west of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street N. Continuing as four lanes, two in each direction, the elevated road will end east of Fourth Street N. Four overpasses will be located at Roosevelt Boulevard and Fourth Street, King Street, 16th Street, and at the frontage road connector, east of 16th Street.
Construction of the project, which will tie into Interstate 275 and St. Petersburg's recent work at 16th Street and Gandy, is expected to begin in July 2013 and take at least four years.
"It will get a little worse before it gets better," conceded Joe Kubicki, St. Petersburg's director of transportation and parking.
He said, though, that the DOT will maintain traffic flow and keep existing lanes open. "They will work with us to minimize the impact."
"I know four years of construction is a long time," St. Petersburg City Council member Jim Kennedy said, after the improvements were outlined at a recent council meeting.
Kennedy, a board member of the Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization, which guides decisions about local transportation issues, added a reassuring note. "At the end, it will be very good.''
Amy Neidringhaus, the DOT's project manager, told council members that the work is being done to address safety and congestion concerns. Funding for the multimillion-dollar undertaking has come from savings on bids from other projects across the state, she said.
Construction will extend for 2.5 miles, with improvements similar to those on U.S. 19 in Pinellas Park and Clearwater. A major difference will be that the median along Gandy Boulevard will be grass instead of concrete barrier walls, Neidringhaus said. Additionally, the Gandy project will include pedestrian and cycling paths.
"This project is unique in that it doesn't require any acquisition of right of way or take any land from any businesses or require its relocation," Kubicki said.
Of St. Petersburg's role in the project, he said, "We were a partner in the design and the city has utilities in the corridor that will have to be relocated in advance of the construction.''
Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 892-2283.