PINELLAS PARK — Some businesses have music playing in the background. Ray Fisher has squealing brakes and the occasional crashing sound of metal on metal as cars collide outside his business.
"The intersection here, we have a lot of screeching tires," Fisher said. His business, Keylock Mini-Storage, 4750 62nd Ave. N, is just steps from 49th Street N.
Both 62nd and 49th are busy roads. That's good for businesses like Fisher's. But it's a mixed blessing. Take 62nd Avenue — it's a two-lane road with no shoulders and narrow ditches with steep sides along parts of the street. Heavy trucks from the industrial area share the road with senior citizens from Crystal Lake Manors. Other drivers use the street to avoid Park Boulevard, which is at times heavily congested.
Wrecks and near-accidents are common. Fisher is accustomed to seeing cars slide into those ditches as they try to avoid hitting stopped cars in front of them at the intersection.
It's no wonder Fisher and other business owners along 62nd have long wished for the street to be widened. Now it appears they may be about to get their wish.
Pinellas County is taking the first steps to addressing the problems along 62nd with a public information forum Thursday to allow people to see a proposed remedy for improving 62nd between 49th and 34th streets N. After that, engineers will finalize the design and begin buying right of way to widen the road. If all goes well, construction of the $16.2-million project (in today's dollars) will begin in April 2012. The project would be finished in February 2014.
The current thinking is to widen that portion of 62nd from a two-lane rural road to a four-lane, divided urban street with curbs, gutters, storm pipes, bike lanes and sidewalks on both sides of the street. The project is about 1.25 miles long.
"It's a vital artery east and west," Fisher said. "I am looking forward to it. It will be painful, but the end result will be worth it."
For years, 62nd Avenue, which generally serves as a border between Pinellas Park and the unincorporated Lealman area, has been a thorn in the side of Pinellas Park officials. They thought the section between 34th and 49th streets would be widened in the 2003-04 fiscal year, with the widening of 62nd west from 49th and the extension of it to Park Street scheduled for the year after that.
But in 2001, the county announced it was putting off improvements until 2007, a decision Mayor Bill Mischler said was unacceptable. But the city was unable to persuade the county to fast-track the project.
"It's been pushed back and pushed back," Fisher said. "Now it looks like it's on the horizon."