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A SCALED-BACK SOLUTION

Improvements to a stretch of Gulf Boulevard once included raised sidewalks and other amenities. Budget cuts led to changes that some think compromise safety. Residents can speak out Thursday.

Local officials and residents of Indian Rocks Beach and Indian Shores will meet Thursday to discuss funding options for improvements to Gulf Boulevard. Citing a project budget shortfall, the Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization recently approved a scaled-back plan for a 2.8-mile segment of State Road 699 between Park Boulevard and Walsingham Road.

The original design included raised sidewalks, a rebuilt seawall and the replacement of seven outfalls that carry stormwater runoff into the Intracoastal Waterway.

The revised design will include bicycle and pedestrian lanes made of pervious asphalt, but local officials and residents have expressed fears that pedestrians could be endangered if motorists confuse the lanes with through-traffic lanes.

Florida Department of Transportation officials said the pervious pavement will help offset some of the street flooding, which has long been a problem in the area. But Indian Shores officials said the permeable pavement, designed to allow water to pass through to a gravel drainage system below, will be a substandard solution as the holes become clogged with sand.

In the new plan, only five of the seven outfalls will be rebuilt, and instead of replacing the entire seawall, only part of it will be repaired. The number of stormwater infalls also has been drastically reduced.

The DOT has committed $15-million to improving the road, and the county has earmarked about $12-million to install reclaimed water lines, which leaves local officials with an $11-million shortfall to complete the original design. On Thursday, the public is invited to share concerns and suggestions at a joint town meeting.

If you go

Meeting set on road project

Indian Rocks Beach and Indian Shores will have a joint meeting at 1 p.m. today at the Beach Art Center, 1515 Bay Palm Blvd., Indian Rocks Beach, to discuss proposed changes to the Florida Department of Transportation SR 699/Gulf Boulevard project. Representatives from the two municipalities, the Florida Department of Transportation and Pinellas County will be on hand to discuss the revised design and alternate funding options. The meeting is open to the public.

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