Thursday, November 23, 2017
Transportation

Pinellas Park expressway project still in limbo despite funding in governor's budget

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Gov. Rick Scott's proposed transportation budget includes $109 million for a long-stalled project to build a four-lane elevated roadway over 118th Avenue that would connect U.S. 19 and Interstate 275.

But that still may not be enough to make the long awaited connector a reality.

The connector is part of major changes planned for the intersection of U.S. 19 and 118th Avenue N that were first introduced in 2005. The road will allow motorists to make the connection from U.S. 19 to I-275 without going through the traffic signals on 118th Avenue N.

But building the elevated roadway will cost just over $138 million, and the state's proposed transportation budget has allocated only $109 million, according to Kristin Carson, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation.

The project's design is about 60 percent complete, said project manager Tim Drawhorn. But there is not enough money to build it.

"We don't have construction dollars funded," Carson said. "We can't tell you when it will be completed."

The state does have $28 million in its proposed budget to purchase the adjacent land needed to build it, Drawhorn said.

When construction is complete, Drawhorn said, most of the elevated road would run above 118th Avenue N, serving "like the cross-town connector," he said.

"If you're traveling from I-275 you'll be able to go westbound and connect with northbound U.S. 19," he said. "If you're coming from U.S. 19 southbound, you'll be able to go down the proposed state road over to I-275."

The plan would allow traffic to flow more freely and quickly through one of the most congested areas in the county, said Ivan Fernandez, a division engineer for Pinellas County.

"It would allow drivers to travel in a more expressway fashion, instead of having to go through intersections and lights and so forth," he said.

Anna M. Phillips can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779.

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