SPRING HILL — After years of controversy, the expenditure of millions of dollars and months of dirt and noise, the long-awaited widening of Elgin Boulevard has been declared substantially complete.
Contractor D.A.B. Constructors is working on the finishing touches, and final completion is expected by the end of the month, county engineer Brian Malmberg told Hernando County commissioners in a memo Thursday.
Among the final tasks: altering two drainage ponds to be sure they can hold as much water as originally planned. Also, sod determined to be unacceptable by the county is being replaced, and the county's consulting engineer is reviewing the project surveys.
The Elgin project generated controversy almost from the outset. Commissioners approved the consulting engineer in October 2006, and in early 2007 they learned that more than 30 houses on the north side of the road would need to be moved or demolished to accomplish the widening.
By the time the process of buying, demolishing and moving homes was over, the county had spent $6 million. Some taxpayers blasted the county for paying prices from the construction boom years, even though the values of the homes had fallen significantly.
"We're all happy it's done,'' said county Commissioner Dave Russell. "Frankly, the project was basically done to accommodate all the new developments that grew up in that area in the last few years.''
A state transportation grant and impact fees paid for the work.
Russell said that's as it should be because impact fees levied on the new construction paid for the roadwork.
And while the timing of the right-of-way purchases meant that the county paid more at the front end of the project, it worked out anyway, he said. While officials had estimated construction costs at about $5 million, the actual construction bill was half that because costs had fallen by the time the county was ready to seek a contractor.
"At the end, it all came together, and the project was accomplished,'' Russell said.
County officials have estimated that, when complete, the improvements will have cost just under $9 million.
The project consisted of widening just under 1 mile of roadway from two to four lanes from Mariner Boulevard to west of Village Van Gogh, utility work, new sidewalks on both sides of the road, upgraded traffic signals and reconstructed driveways.
After residents whose homes backed up on the road lodged complaints, the county agreed to install a 6-foot-tall vinyl fence from Mariner Boulevard to the Progress Energy power easement.
There were other residents who complained during the construction as well, but Russell said that happens with every project.
"The project went fairly smoothly as far as these kinds of projects go,'' he said.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.