Reader Ted Deisenroth of Largo contacted us to express frustration he shares with plenty of folks — based on the volume of mail we've been getting — regarding the ongoing work on Belcher Road. The project to replace a 48-inch water main that runs under Belcher from East Bay Drive to Bryan Dairy Road began in 2010 and was estimated at that time to take about 14 months to complete. But a major monkey wrench in the works was the rupture of the old water main that happened this time last year, making the holidays more of a challenge than usual for folks in affected areas of Largo.
And as the holidays roll around again, here we are with no indication the end is anywhere in sight, Deisenroth says. "Crews returned in October 2011 to dig new holes in the repaired section of Belcher near East Bay, and to flood the road for two weeks with continuous running water from a series of plastic pipes and faucets along the stretch from East Bay to Ulmerton Road. In early November, a supervisor on the job explained to me that water was being flushed from the new mains to clear contaminants in preparation for switching from the old to the new pipes. But now as we near the end of 2011, new deep holes have been dug, traffic is . . . still being diverted around the site, power equipment stands idle and barrels continue to block access to turns for the shopping plaza in that area," Deisenroth wrote.
We shared Deisenroth's email with the folks at Pinellas County Public Works and asked for an update, and more importantly, when the project will be completed.
Paul Giuliani, an engineer with the county's Department of Environment and Infrastructure, told us the current projected completion date is late February, due to unforeseen issues that have come up.
"Some of the things contributing to the delay are the water main break last year; several previously unknown existing underground features that had to be redesigned and material procured in order to provide a functional system; conflicts with unforeseen underground utilities; permitting, and resequencing of the construction activities due to the break," Giuliani said.
Much of the progress has been underground and not apparent to most of us, so here's what's been accomplished: new transmission and distribution lines are complete and workers are transferring two dozen service connections to the new line. Work south of East Bay Drive is the final phase of connecting the new lines to the water main.
Giuliani says that while remaining work to complete service connections along the Belcher Road corridor may appear to be random, it's because work is scheduled with traffic conditions in mind. And issues such as the timing of necessary temporary water outages and sequencing required to maintain water for customers and the water system also have to come into play. So while equipment sits idly as we pass by on our way to and from work, it's likely that the equipment and the workers operating them were running overnight. A milestone to keep an eye out for that indicates the project is almost done: paving of Belcher Road is the final task to be completed, which will start once all the water main service connections have been made.
Tow to Go returns
Happy holidays, dear readers, and one final reminder from the Doc about drinking and driving: Don't do it. If you forgot to designate a sober driver and have no means of getting yourself and your vehicle safely home, remember that AAA Auto Club South and Budweiser will once again provide their free Tow to Go program throughout the holidays to drivers who have imbibed too much. AAA says the program has removed more than 14,000 drunken drivers from roads since the program began in 1998. Anyone, AAA member or not, may call for a Tow to Go ride through Jan. 2. The service provides a free, confidential ride and tow home from any bar or restaurant for motorists who may have had too much. The number is toll-free 1-800-AAA-HELP (4357).
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