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38th Avenue's repairs require time and patience

Last week's closure of 38th Avenue N east of U.S. 19 apparently took plenty of folks by surprise.

Even though the Doc has mentioned the upcoming closure several times and Neighborhood Times also ran a news story about it, flabbergasted readers have sent us notes the last few days riddled with incredulous exclamations such as "What the???" "Are you kidding me???" and "Seriously???"

I'm tempted to wag my finger here but I'll refrain since it does no good and you can't see it anyway. So let me just say this: You were warned.

Reader Joy Brentnell commutes with her co-workers, a group of nurses, doctors and staff at the Bay Pines VA.

Brentnell wrote: "38th Avenue is my route to Bay Pines. Traffic is now being detoured to 22nd Avenue N — what a giant mess. I'm seeing bread trucks, beer trucks, produce trucks, etc. all getting off the interstate at 22nd Avenue N so now what was a 20 minute ride to work takes 40 minutes at 7 a.m. What exactly are they doing and, most importantly for us — how long should we expect this nightmare to continue?"

The same day Brentnell's note came in, the Doc heard from Dr. Jim Bardsley, who obviously has not traveled 38th in the past week. Bardsley wrote: "I have been traveling 38th Avenue N for the past 15 years and I see a continuing problem. There is an underpass on 38th just east of 34th Street N that has a problem. Years ago they (whoever they are) cut about nine or 10 strips across the road going east and west. The problem is that those strips keep sinking, making the road very bumpy. Every couple years they dig them up and repave them then they sink again. They are in the sink mode now. Can't they be fixed once and for all?"

So here's the good news for Bardsley and the not-so-great news for Brentnell and company: 38th Avenue N is finally closed for a major and long overdue repair. But the job, a county project that affects 38th Avenue N between 31st and 33rd streets, will take about four months.

The project requires that the entire road and drain system underneath be removed and upgraded. Groundwater under the road has done some serious damage over the years.

The county's suggested alternate routes include 54th Avenue N and 22nd Avenue N.

The Doc's opinion is that everyone and then some are using 54th and 22nd so it may be worth your time to jog a bit south and trying Ninth or Fifth avenues N for the daily commute, especially if you want to avoid all the heavy commercial vehicle traffic.

To answer the question we've gotten from so many readers, "Why has 38th Avenue N been such as mess for so long?" here's the short version:

When it was first built, 38th Avenue N crossed railroad tracks, which meant that vehicular traffic had to stop for trains.

The train traffic volume increased when an Amtrak station was built at 37th Avenue N in the 1960s, so the 38th Avenue crossing was redesigned so the trains went over the road. But to do so meant the roadway was built 15 feet below what would have been the normal elevation of the road.

Here in Florida groundwater can be found 2 to 3 feet below the surface of the ground — so engineers designed a drain system that lowered the groundwater table an additional 15 feet.

We have a mess now because pavement failures started to happen in the areas where the drain pipes crossed the road, giving the road the wonderful washboard effect we have all become accustomed to.

Engineers believe the design is allowing the soil under the road to be washed away, creating openings where the roadbed sinks, and as we all know, attempts to repair the road and the drain system have been failures.

The project is going to take several months because workers have to first completely remove the road and then take out the drain system incrementally so groundwater doesn't rise into the work area. Then all the groundwater (144,000 gallons per day) has to be pumped out. It's going to be a long summer, folks.

Please e-mail Dr. Delay at to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions.

Fast facts

Details online

If you're interested in more information on the project, visit the Pinellas County Web site:

38th Avenue's repairs require time and patience 05/09/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 9, 2009 4:31am]
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