TEMPLE TERRACE — Workers have started a $7.1 million repaving of 50th and 56th streets that's expected to last until next spring.
The state Department of Transportation project began two weeks ago and cuts through one of Tampa's busiest sections, as well as through the heart of Temple Terrace. An estimated 25,000 to 37,000 vehicles a day are affected by the work.
For now, most of the repaving is concentrated along the southern end of a 6-mile project: 50th Street between E 23rd Street and Chelsea Street, just north of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Tampa.
Workers are moving northward from there, scraping up cracked, broken asphalt and laying a fresh surface. Within the past week, they started to repave areas north of Chelsea where 50th becomes 56th Street.
DOT spokeswoman Kris Carson said that by July workers are expected to proceed across the Hillsborough River bridge into Temple Terrace, where traffic can pick up to anywhere from 35,000 to 37,000 vehicles a day.
She said she doesn't expect detours will be necessary, though, and noted that workers will close lanes when needed. Most of the work will happen during the day, but that could change depending on backups.
"We will continue to monitor the traffic and if it looks like it's getting too congested we can adjust the paving schedule," she said.
Also included are new sidewalks, sidewalk repairs and new traffic signals at MLK, Puritan Road and Sligh and Mission Hills avenues.
Carson said some Tampa residents have asked whether red-light cameras are being installed after noticing wooden poles going up at some intersections.
Carson said the poles hold temporary sensors to operate the signals. As workers rip up the intersections, the sensors embedded in the pavement become damaged, so temporary sensors are needed. The poles will come down as the work finishes.
Not all of 56th Street will be affected by the project. As part of a revitalization of the commercial corridor last year, Temple Terrace revamped the portion of 56th from Busch Boulevard to River Hills Drive. As a result, workers repaving the highway will bypass that section and focus on the part from Busch to Fowler.
Temple Terrace resident Detrus Carter, 45, said he sympathizes with motorists not familiar with 56th and its long stretches that prohibit U-turns.
"It can be hard to find a place to turn around, and if you're new to the area you can get lost," he said.
Adding construction to the mix will only make matters worse. He predicted many more folks getting lost as they try to avoid the roadwork and navigate through Temple Terrace's maze of side streets and rolling hills.
Carter said he won't be troubled much by the project, though. "I know the back roads," he said.