Thankfully, after three long years, the Keystone/Tarpon Road expansion project is finally behind us. But since I work in the Carillon area, I get to trade that three-year mess with the recently started three-year project to "improve" the Roosevelt/Ulmerton Road area. And of course, everyone in North Pinellas gets to deal with the never-ending construction on U.S. 19. Why don't we hire a small army for these projects and conduct the work 24/7? Not only would this ease the pain for everyone involved, but it would put more people to work on the "shovel ready" projects.
This is an excellent question, and one that comes into the Doc's mailbox quite often. As long as we have such a high volume of vehicles on the roads in the Tampa Bay area, we will be in a constant state of repair or improvement, so it's helpful to know what goes into it.
Road improvement projects, even those that seem fairly simple, are mind-bogglingly complex. In our particular region, the geography and the dense population combine to make the proposition even more so. And while it would be great to deploy an army of road workers to knock jobs out in quick time, that's not really where the time issue comes into play. It's all the behind the scenes work that goes into these projects that takes time.
The advance work that is required does in a way involve an army before the first barricade goes up. This army consists of engineers and geologists, for example, and the collaboration of multiple agencies across city, county and state agencies working together to make sure power lines get moved when they have to be moved; likewise sewer and potable water lines. Fiber optic lines may have to be moved. Property owners have to be worked with if a road is being widened and private property is involved.
The planning and logistics that go into what may seem like a simple 1 or 2-mile stretch of road improvement include studies to determine environmental impact, drainage, current and future traffic volume, the effect on surrounding roads, neighborhoods and businesses, and once all of that is worked out, the funding has to be in place and contractors who have bid on the projects must be vetted.
Once the work finally begins, it has to go on at times and in such a way that we can continue to use the roads. And there are other factors that can't be planned for such as weather, or digging and finding something unexpected. As to lack of urgency to get the job done, after years of visiting road construction sites, the Doc can attest that no one wants the projects completed more than the workers doing the job — they use the roads, too.
• In St. Petersburg, watch for work on sidewalk and drainage improvements along Fourth Street N from Fifth Avenue N to Koger Boulevard until October. Work is being done between 5 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Sunday through Friday; motorists should expect delays and daily lane closures.
• Visitors to Fort De Soto Park should be aware of work that began last week along the Pinellas Bayway S from the boat ramp entrance to Bunces Pass Bridge. Bridge repairs will require intermittent lane closures and delays for cars, and the sidewalk and bike lane will also be closed. Work is expected to be completed Oct. 11.
• In Seminole, expect intermittent lane closures and delays on 86th Avenue N from 131st Street N to Ridge Road as sidewalk work continues until Nov. 1.
• If your daily commute takes you northbound on U.S. 19, be prepared for the next round of major road work, which is about to start between Countryside Boulevard in Clearwater and E Live Oak Street in Tarpon Springs.
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