Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Coming soon on U.S. 19: More construction delays

CLEARWATER — Just when you thought it was getting easier to drive on U.S. 19 again …

The state will use federal stimulus money to kick-start more construction on U.S. 19, including a total replacement of the overpass at Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard.

A 2.7-mile stretch of the highway — one of the area's busiest arteries with 75,000 to 95,000 motorists a day — will become mostly elevated, with new overpasses and an expansion to six lanes from its current four at Gulf-to-Bay.

Construction will start in September and take five years to complete. Motorists probably won't notice a big difference until after the start of the new year, because early work will mostly involve utility crews.

On the books since 1990, the project was delayed several times, broken into parts but finally launched this year with President Barack Obama's economic stimulus package. Nearly $45 million in federal funding will help pay for the project, which is expected to cost more than $220 million to design and build.

Keeping cars and trucks from clogging up will mean shifting drivers to parts of the bridge that aren't being replaced, and then to the new portion. Vehicles also will be detoured to frontage roads.

The existing overpass already makes space tight there, where shoppers and commuters converge near Clearwater Mall.

"It's a challenge, but it can be done," said Don Skelton, district secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation.

But news of the overpass replacement — instead of only an expansion — had missed Pinellas County Commissioner Karen Seel and Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard, who initially worried that replacing the bridge would cause a traffic nightmare.

Replacement is necessary so U-turn lanes can fit, and the bridge can reach a higher elevation, said Skelton, adding that it has been in the plans for years.

Hibbard later said he wasn't worried after receiving promises from project officials that traffic would be handled adequately.

Motorists have faced major overpass construction at other U.S. 19 junctures before. In fact, different parts of U.S. 19 have been undergoing some sort of renovation for more than two decades.

"We're finally getting close to what we should have had 30 years ago," Hibbard said.

Overpasses will be added to U.S. 19 at Belleair Road and Seville Boulevard. Access to the highway from neighborhoods off Harn Boulevard and Nursery Road will be limited to frontage roads, for example.

When it's done, motorists are supposed to be able to make better time because the highway will have limited access — and only one traffic light — for 12 miles from 118 Avenue to north of the Countryside area.

"We've been wanting this project to go through, and we've been disappointed," Hibbard said. "From an economic development standpoint, transportation is a real problem when we talk to companies about getting from Point A to Point B."

Coming soon on U.S. 19: More construction delays 06/09/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 9, 2009 10:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Why are so few Tampa Bay houses for sale? They're being rented

    Real Estate

    Oreste Mesa Jr. owns a modest 40-year-old house in West Tampa just off MacDill Avenue. It's an area where many homeowners are hearing the siren song of builders and cashing out while the market is strong.

    Attorney David Eaton poses in front of his rental home at 899 72nd Ave. North. in St. Petersburg. He's among a growing number of property owners who see more value in renting out unused homes than selling them. 
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  2. In a word, Hernando school leaders say, first day was 'smooth'

    K12

    Over and over on Monday, school district leaders used the same word to describe the unfolding of the first day of school in Hernando County.

    "Smooth."

    Third-graders Teagan Ferguson, left, and Brianna DeLaine deliver attendance figures to the office at J.D. Floyd Elementary School on Monday. Superintendent Lori Romano and other district administrators toured a handful of schools and classrooms throughout the day,
  3. Looking Back: Diana, America's Favorite Princess

    Celebrities

    The Washington Post, in her obituary, called her "the most photographed woman in the world." She was loved in England for saying, after her divorce from Prince Charles, "I'd like to be a queen of people's hearts." Americans loved her for her work with charitable causes supporting victims of AIDS and landmines. Aug. 31 …

    Prince Charles and Princess Diana on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on their wedding day.

(AP Photo)
  4. Rays morning after: 5 mistakes that led to loss to Blue Jays

    Blogs

    We've already documented elsewhere what the Rays didn't do, how they failed to take advantage of a prime opportunity to win Wednesday's game, getting just one run after loading the bases in the seventh with one out and three of …

    Jake Faria make too many mistakes, the failure to execute costing him repeatedly.
  5. Unborn baby dies, two critically injured in Largo crash

    Accidents

    LARGO — Two people were critically injured and an unborn baby was killed in a crash that shut down an intersection on Ulmerton Road late Wednesday night, the Florida Highway Patrol said.