TIERRA VERDE— Beachgoers, residents, bicyclists and locals will soon enjoy less traffic and easier travel between Isla Del Sol and Tierra Verde islands, and to and from Fort De Soto Park.
The Doc recently put on her hard hat and explored the construction site for the State Road 679 and Bayway Bridge project.
The Florida Department of Transportation has big plans to replace the two-lane drawbridge connecting the two islands of the Intercoastal Waterway with a two-lane, high-level, fixed bridge.
This will provide more space for bicyclists and pedestrians on the bridge and will alleviate the need for drivers to stop at the drawbridge signal every time a large boat needs to pass through.
“That drawbridge is a pain in the butt," said David Gendron, a nearby resident who frequently walks to the site to observe ongoing construction.
The drawbridge typically is up for only about 10 minutes, but traffic can pile up quickly in that time.
Jonathan Yates, the project manager with contracting company American Bridge, said the current bridge causes inevitable user delays for both drivers and the operator every time the drawbridge goes up and down.
But Yates said the major problem is the age of the bridge.
“It’s reaching its full lifetime," he said, which is typically about 50 years. “So the major goal is to take this bridge that’s older and convert it to a high-level, fixed-span so you don’t have the traffic delays.”
The new bridge will have a lifespan of 75 years and will eliminate many of the current stoppages, according to Yates.
Another goal of the project is to improve pedestrian access.
The new bridge still will have two lanes, but it will be wider. A 12-foot shared-use path on the east side and a 5-foot concrete sidewalk on the west side of SR 679 will give bicyclists and pedestrians more room.
Other improvements include a new roundabout at Madonna Boulevard and First Street, repaving of State Road 679 between SR 682 and the new bridge, and replacing the seawall south of the bridge along SR 679 in Pinellas County.
The new bridge also will help the state and American Bridge reduce maintenance and labor costs. The existing bridge requires someone to operate it 24 hours a day, and crews have to make necessary repairs and grease the bridge.
“Think of your car,” Yates said. “What usually breaks? Is it the cushion in your seat, or is it some part of your motor that moves?”
Removing the movable parts is key," said Transportation spokeswoman Kris Carson.
The $56.3 million, design-build project began in December of 2018 and is on track to finish in the summer of 2021.
Roughly 50 workers have been working up to 11 hours a day, six days a week, pouring up to 2.3 million pounds of concrete for the pier, and securing the footer and barricading it into the water. Each pier takes up to a month to complete, but they are one of the most important pieces.
If you have questions about the project, the construction team hosts weekly community outreach events on the first Tuesday of each month at 11 a.m. The events are held on the eastern sidewalk along the seawall between First Street East and Yacht Club Lane, south of The Village at Tierra Verde.
Traffic updates and road closures:
- 24-hour lane closures continue through Saturday for U.S. 98 new bridge construction of Suncoast Parkway 2, a half-mile on each side of Suncoast Parkway (State Road 589)
- Intermittent lane closures through Friday for State Road 50 (Cortez Blvd) widening from Windmere Road/Bronson Boulevard to U.S. 301 from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Lane closures through Friday for Interstate 275 operational improvements from west of State Road 60 (Exit 39) to Lois Avenue (Exit 40B) from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m.
- Nightly (southbound only) lane closures through Friday for I-75 repaving from Manatee County Line to north of County Road 672 (Big Bend Road) from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
- I-75 northbound rest area reconstruction at mile marker 238, Rest area is closed until spring 2021
- Southbound lane closures on I-75 from south of SR 574/MLK (Exit 260) to SR 60 (Exit 257) through Friday from 9:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.
- Expect intermittent lane closures for U.S. 41 repaving from Bullfrog Creek to Denver Street through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- 24-hour (northbound only) lane closures for Nebraska Avenue drainage and roadway improvements south of Hillsborough Avenue continue through Saturday
- Expect lane closures on SR 60 under I-275 through Friday from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m.
- SR 60 (Kennedy Boulevard) traffic signal upgrades at Armenia Avenue and Brevard Avenue cause nightly lane closures through Friday from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
- SR 582 (Fowler Avenue) median improvements at 12th Street cause lane closures through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- CR 580 (Sam Allen Road) widening from east of Paul Buchman Highway (SR 39A) to Park Road causes lane closures with flagging operations through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Lane closures on CR 587 (West Shore Boulevard) at I-275 through Friday from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m.
- CR 672 (Big Bend Road) bridge replacement from Dickman Road to Wyandotte Road causes 24-hour lane closures through Saturday
- New exit point from southbound I-75 to the Selmon Expressway opens Tuesday morning:
- Drivers traveling from southbound I-75 to the Selmon Expressway (SR 618 - Exit 256) will use a new exit beginning early Tuesday morning
- The new exit point will be just south of Exit 257 to SR 60 (about one-half mile north of the existing exit), meaning motorists will need to make the decision to exit to the Selmon Expressway sooner. Once on the exit ramp, drivers should remain alert to traffic entering from westbound SR 60 merging from the right side. After that merge area, drivers will continue southward on the frontage ramp lanes and follow the signs to the Selmon Expressway.
- This new southbound I-75 exit point replaces the current exit ramp to the Selmon Expressway and is a permanent change to the interchange configuration in this area. Drivers should be extra cautious about the new traffic pattern and remain alert to construction workers in the area.
Expect northbound lane closures on I-75 from Selmon Expressway (Exit 256) to north of SR 60 (Exit 257) from 9:30 p.m. Sunday to 5:30 a.m. Monday and southbound lane closures on I-75 from south of SR 574/MLK (Exit 260) to the Selmon Expressway (Exit 256) Monday through Thursday from 9:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.
- Nightly lane closures from Ehren Cutoff to Tower Road/Carricker Road for U.S. 41 (Land O’ Lakes Boulevard) repaving from Sunday through Thursday from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m.
- Lane closures for State Road 54 repaving from Old Millpond Drive to Little Road Sunday through Thursday from 7 p.m. to 7:30 a.m.
- U.S. 19 lighting improvement throughout Pasco County causes lane closures from Sunday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Lane closures on State Road 56 from Wesley Chapel Boulevard (County Road 54) to east of I-75 from Sunday to Thursday from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
- Intermittent nightly lane closures Sunday through Thursday for SR 54 widening from Curley Road to Morris Bridge Road from 8 p.m. to 6:30 a.m.
- Nightly lane closures for I-75 median crossovers to the north and south of SR 52 (mile marker 287 and mile marker 283.5) Sunday through Thursday from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.
The Strauber Memorial Drive Stormwater Drainage project begin Wednesday so expect round-the-clock road closures while crews install new stormwater pipes below the roadway in the flood-prone area to increase drainage flow:
- Expect complete lane closure with message boards directing traffic
- Northbound traffic from Baillie’s Bluff Road will be detoured through Gulf Trace Boulevard
- Southbound traffic from Trouble Creek Road will be detoured through Moog Road
- Targeted completion date is the first week of February, depending upon weather conditions.
- Gateway Expressway (new tolled roadway system) updates:
- Lane closures through Saturday from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. on Interstate 275 from south of Gandy Boulevard (Exit 28) to Fourth Street N (Exit 32), I-275 northbound Exit 30 ramp to westbound State Road 686 (Roosevelt Boulevard) and westbound 118th Avenue (County Road 296)
- Lane closures through Saturday from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. on U.S. 19 Frontage Roads from 110th Avenue N to 126th Avenue N, on the SR 686 (Roosevelt Boulevard) entrance ramp to the Bayside Bridge, SR 686 (Roosevelt Boulevard) from SR 688 (Ulmerton Road) to 49th Street N, SR 686 (Roosevelt Boulevard) from 28th Street N to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street N
- Intermittent lane closures on Alternate U.S. 19 (Myrtle Avenue) repaving from SR 60 (Chestnut Street) to Mohawk Street through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- SR 688, SR 586 and SR 580 intersection lighting improvements cause intermittent lane closures through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at various locations:
- SR 688 (Ulmerton Road) between Hamlin Boulevard in Largo and Feather Sound Drive in St. Petersburg
- SR 586 (Curlew Road) between Alt 19/Bayshore in Dunedin and Tampa Road in Oldsmar
- SR 699 (Gulf Boulevard) drainage improvements from Walsingham Road to Fourth Avenue North cause intermittent lane closures with flagging operations through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Monique Welch is a staff writer at the Tampa Bay Times, and the voice behind Dr. Delay. Send your traffic concerns, questions, and pictures of roadway troubles you spot in your travels around the Tampa Bay area to email@example.com. Follow @AskDrDelay.