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End to maddening bridge tie-ups in sight

Come January, motorists turning north onto the Bayside Bridge from Roosevelt Boulevard will have an easier ride, as well as those trying to exit the bridge at that point.

By early January three new turn lanes will open, negating the frustration of sitting through several traffic signal changes before accessing the turn ramps.

Currently, there is one left turn lane for eastbound traffic and no right turn lane for westbound traffic. When the work is complete, there will be two turn lanes each for eastbound and westbound traffic.

"We're not taking anything from the six through lanes (three eastbound and three westbound)," said Florida Department of Transportation representative Kris Carson. "We're widening the road to add the new lanes."

On weekdays, the bottlenecks are a nightmare, said Bonnie Moore, DOT's project administrator on the job. First, there are the eastbound-westbound turn backups. Add to that a backup of motorists trying to exit the bridge to get onto Roosevelt. That group is blocked by the eastbound traffic crunch, she said.

The daily traffic count in the area in 1999 was 45,500 vehicles, according to DOT. Moore said that traffic count today is at least double and may be triple that number.

Work on the $2.3-million DOT project began May 20 and was to be finished in November, said Moore. Work by Tampa contractor Cone & Graham is on schedule, she said, but several weeks of weather-related delays have pushed the completion date to early January.

"We're giving it a little cushion," Moore said. "Hopefully, we won't have more hurricanes."

The project includes widening the ramps to accept the new lanes and modifications to the ramp signals. The bridge across the Cross Bayou Canal just west of the intersection will be widened by 12 feet to accommodate the new westbound turn lane, Moore said.

Within a stone's throw of this project is a separate but related job being supervised by Pinellas County _ the realignment of Fairchild Drive. This is necessary to make space for the new westbound turn lanes.

Fairchild will be realigned to connect with the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport entrance road. Traffic signals currently on Roosevelt Boulevard at Fairchild Drive will be removed.

The $777,594 project also requires relocating and rebuilding a section of the service drive that goes around the airport and accompanying fencing, said Paul Bellhorn, the county's project manager and engineer.

David Nelson Construction Co. of Palm Harbor is the contractor on the job. Work began June 7 and the completion date is Nov. 4, Bellhorn said, but may be delayed because of recent weather conditions.

Roosevelt construction

1 New eastbound turn lanes from Bayside Bridge to Roosevelt Blvd.

2 New westbound turn lanes from Roosevelt Blvd. to Bayside Bridge.

3 Current traffic signals at Fairchild Dr. on Roosevelt Blvd. to be removed.

4 Realign Fairchild Dr. to connect with airport entranceway.