Steve Corbet is one of many readers who have asked the Doc for an update on the U.S. 19 project in the Countryside area: "There has been continuing construction in this area for an extended period of time. The work appears related to several different projects but the construction never ends. Is there any long-term design to roadways like this section of U.S. 19 that might be reviewed so as to save the taxpayers undue and on-going construction costs?"
To answer Corbet's question about planning and design, yes, plans for projects such as the U.S. 19 improvement initiative are made years in advance, which include studies on current traffic volume and future needs, environmental impact, budget requirements, and the like. This process includes public hearings where proposals are reviewed, graphic mockups of what the finished project will look like are displayed and anyone who attends may ask questions or comment.
Because of the enormousness of the U.S. 19 project, it does indeed seem like it has gone on forever, but such operations don't happen overnight — although it would be nice if the asphalt fairy could wave a magic wand and give us new roadways in an instant.
Here's a rundown of the U.S. 19 project in terms of what has been accomplished, what's in the planning-design process and what's happening now:
Completed improvements: U.S. 19 (at Drew Street) from north of Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard to the CSX Railroad crossing, completed in 2006.
U.S. 19 from south of NE Coachman Road to north of Sunset Point Road was completed in 2008, and most recently, U.S. 19 from north of 49th Street to south of 126th Avenue N, was completed in 2010.
Planned improvements: U.S. 19 from north of State Road 580 to Northside Drive and U.S. 19 from Northside Drive to north of County Road 95.
According to Kris Carson of the state Department of Transportation, these projects should begin the design phase this fall, but it's important to note that the work has not yet been funded.
"The design will be consistent with the major reconstruction projects already completed where U.S. 19 is made into controlled access with frontage roads running along each side of U.S. 19 for local business access," Carson said.
Construction should begin late this year on U.S. 19 from north of Sunset Point Road to south of Countryside Boulevard and the approximate duration of the project is about 18 months.
Current construction: U.S. 19 from north of Whitney Road to north of Gulf-to-Bay is under way and will be completed in 2014.
Work on U.S. 19 from south of McCormick Drive to north of Enterprise Road is on track to be completed sometime in 2012. This project will install a barrier wall down the center of U.S. 19. This means the median openings that were previously closed with temporary curbing in 2008 will become permanently closed by the barrier wall. A frontage road will be constructed along the east side of U.S. 19 between McCormick Drive and First Avenue and this project will tie into the upcoming project scheduled to begin late this year.
The DOT has a U.S. 19 website that provides detailed information, including the state's five-year work program, which is updated regularly. Check it out at www.myus19.com. The site also features links to information on other highway projects and Pinellas County road work. Readers can sign up to receive e-mail updates.
Barricade Watch: Here's a reminder that repairs to CSX railroad lines will require the DOT to close Park Boulevard at 58th Street next weekend. Park Boulevard will be closed starting at 6:30 a.m. Friday through Sunday evening. Traffic will be detoured from westbound Park Boulevard to southbound 49th Street to westbound 54th Avenue N to northbound 66th Street.
Until next week, happy and safe motoring!
Please e-mail Dr. Delay at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions. Questions selected for publication may be edited for space and clarity.