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Curlew Road makeover starts new phase

For residents and businesses along Curlew Road, mounds of dirt, bulldozers and construction crews have been a familiar sight since July.

That's when Pinellas County began a project to move water lines along Curlew between County Road 1 and Fisher Road.

Now a contractor for the Florida Department of Transportation has begun another project that will keep hard hats and heavy machinery in the neighborhood until spring 2006.

As part of the state's $8.4-million Curlew Road project, crews will construct a divided four-lane road with raised medians and left-turn lanes between CR 1 and Fisher Road, which is just west of U.S. 19.

They also will resurface the road between Alt. U.S. 19 and CR 1, build new sidewalks and improve drainage along the road.

"I'm sure it will get worse before it gets better. We think it will be challenging at times," said Keenan Knopke, president of Curlew Hills Memory Gardens at 1750 Curlew Road. "Overall, it's something that needs to be done. You'd love to see somebody raise a magic wand and make a new road or have it done in a week, but reality is different."

Though major, the project should cause "minimal disruption" because most road work will take place between 9:30 p.m. and 7 a.m., said Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kris Carson. Lane closures will occur during the project, she said, but one lane will be open in each direction at all times.

And once the project is finished, she said, traffic conditions on busy Curlew Road will improve.

Pinellas County estimates that in 2003, an average of 22,913 cars and trucks drove on Curlew Road east of CR 1 each day.

Jim Hacker, 65, said he doesn't mind having construction crews steps away from his Cordova Court home.

"It's worth it to get a new road," he said.

Down the street at Temple Ahavat Shalom, director of education Landy Gonzalez worried that the construction could make traffic on Sundays a "disaster."

The temple is sandwiched between Emmanuel Community Church and St. Alfred's Episcopal Church.

Services at those churches end about the same time as the temple's Sunday school classes.

Even without road construction, Gonzalez said, traffic leaving the temple is usually so heavy after Sunday school and Hebrew school on Mondays that it hires a police officer to help direct cars.

Traffic backups may be a hassle for adults driving to the temple, but Gonzalez said the children who attend pre-school classes there are fascinated by the road construction.

"They all want to drive the trucks," she said.

Catherine E. Shoichet can be reached at (727) 771-4303 or