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Construction to revamp lanes, close southbound State Road 60 ramp on weekends

Congestion, potholes and flooded highways are nothing new for transportation experts.

Mold, however, is another story.

The nasty spores are making the exit ramp from southbound Memorial Highway toward the Howard Frankland Bridge too slick for traffic, and now the Department of Transportation plans to close the ramp to deal with the slimy problem.

The department says the trouble stems from drainage issues that arose a few years ago after a retaining wall was constructed along the southbound exit of Memorial (which is also State Road 60) at Interstate 275.

Water seeping through the wall after heavy storms is skimming across the road surface, causing mold and mildew to grow. The problem worsens during Florida's rain-soaked summers.

"It's odd to me. I haven't worked with anything like this," department spokesman John McShaffrey said. "We have more issues with mildew and mold on retaining walls. That's very common. Having it on the road, I'm not really familiar with that being a common occurrence."

Engineers are planning a fix starting this weekend that will reroute motorists to westbound Kennedy Boulevard to get to the bridge.

McShaffrey said crews will install drains along the base of the wall to capture runoff and halt the slime's spread. The ramp will close Fridays at 11 p.m. and reopen to traffic at 6 a.m. Mondays, before rush hour. The ramp closures are expected to last no more than four weekends, finishing around the morning of May 7.

Around the same time, the department will tackle another ramp-related issue, this time involving a traffic merger from cars traveling along Kennedy and southbound Memorial.

Before vehicles from Kennedy get onto the Howard Frankland, they must merge with cars that have exited Memorial and are also in a lane toward the bridge.

McShaffrey said the merging pattern is problematic, especially for first-time visitors, because it requires the Kennedy traffic to shift left to right instead of the usual right to left.

To correct the problem, engineers want to widen, repave and restripe the area where the two lanes become one so that traffic enters the bridge on separate lanes.

The work is expected to take place at night, with some of it beginning this weekend. The work should finish by July but depends on the contractor's timetable.

Lanes will remain open to traffic throughout, so no alternate route will be required.

The drainage project and the ramp reconfiguration will cost about $876,000 total.

"Really both of these issues are safety-related, and anything we can do to improve safety, we're going to focus on that," McShaffrey said. "And it's probably not a good idea to have plant life growing out of the pavement."

Rich Shopes can be reached at hillsnews@tampabay.com.

Construction to revamp lanes, close southbound State Road 60 ramp on weekends 04/12/12 [Last modified: Thursday, April 12, 2012 4:30am]
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