TARPON SPRINGS — Ever since the city of Tarpon Springs and Tampa Bay real estate company DDA Development broke ground on a luxury apartment complex at Meres Boulevard and Pinellas Avenue last October, the complaints have been piling up.
The consensus is that it will cause a traffic nightmare and add to the traffic woes that already exist on the ever-busy, two-lane Alternate U.S. 19.
It worries Joan Jennings, who lives across the street in Green Dolphin Park, that the volume of cars will increase, but the size of the road cannot.
“It’s like trying to put 10 pounds of potatoes in an 8-pound bag,” she said. “It’s just a horrible situation. I got kind of a wait-and-see attitude, but I can’t help but think it’s going to make the traffic much worse.”
Jennings said cars already try to cut through her neighborhood, which is a 55+ condominium community with a posted 15-miles-per-hour speed limit. Some exceed 40 miles per hour to beat traffic lights along Alt. 19.
And with hundreds of people coming to the area, she said it poses safety concerns for the elderly, who frequently walk around the neighborhood.
“The worst is yet to come,” Jennings said. “It’s gotten to the point where one of the board chairs is proposing getting a gated entrance.”
The apartment complex, which will be called Icaria on Pinellas, will house 236 one-, two- and three-bedroom units from 718 to 1309 square feet costin $1,245 to $1,785 a month.
The apartments will spread across five buildings on the 6.5 acres of land adjacent to the Winn Dixie.
Judy Staley, the spokeswoman Tarpon Springs, said several things affect traffic in the area.
“We experience a very marked increase in traffic this time of year due to the influx of seasonal residents,” she said. “In addition, as a part of the project that is currently under construction, a number of road improvements are being made.”
Staley is referring to the current Meres Boulevard Extension that will create the city’s only continuous east-west evacuation route from the Gulf of Mexico to U.S. 19. It also will provide greater access from U.S. 19 to the southern part of the city.
The project will add de-acceleration turn lanes into the main entrance on both sides of the road, extend the median south almost to the main entry, replace sidewalks on the east side of the road and adjust existing structures to work with new sidewalks and roadway. It will also replace the sidewalk on the west side of the road, add retaining walls and include repaved and freshly-striped roads.
“It is expected that these improvements and the completion of the connection of Meres Boulevard through to U.S. Highway 19 should ultimately improve the traffic flow in the area,” she said.
But Costa Vatikiotis, the former Tarpon Springs city manager and newly elected commissioner, disagrees.
“It’s not going to get any better, but we need to see how much worse it’s going to be," he said. “The only thing that I think is badly needed is going to be a traffic light for the hospital for the new emergency room."
Amber Brinkley, the spokeswoman for DDA Development, said that part of the new apartment complex will be ready as early as May.
But the good news for Tarpon folks is that the city will not issue a certificate of occupancy until its portion of the Meres Boulevard connection to U.S. Highway 19 and Pinellas Avenue (Alt. 19) are complete.
In its Meres redevelopments plan, the city originally aimed for a mixed-use town center that included retail, offices, additional hospital parking and residential. That was in 2008, but it never got off the ground.
An apartment complex was the only thing that emerged from it.
“The land is a combination of parcels that was originally a mixed-use project,” said Brinkley, who touts that the complex is a $40 million investment in the city. “A few puzzle pieces have been put together, and the apartment complex is one of those pieces. It’s the first multi-family complex of this size ever to be built in Tarpon.”
Other residents, who asked to remain anonymous, expressed their frustrations with the Doc about losing a wetlands and springs that Tarpon Springs is known for.
Traffic and road closure updates:
- Intermittent lane closures through Friday from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. for State Road 50 (Cortez Boulevard) widening from Windmere Road/Bronson Boulevard to U.S. 301 (Treiman Boulevard)
- U.S. 41 repaving from Bullfrog Creek to Denver Street causes intermittent lane closures through Saturday from 7 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.
- Lane closures with flagging operations through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on County Road 580 (Sam Allen Road) from east of Paul Buchman Highway (SR 39A) to Wilder Road
- Northbound I-275 will be closed between SR 60 and Lois Avenue and southbound I-275 will be closed between West Shore Boulevard and SR 60 between 10 p.m. Tuesday, March 10 and 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 11. Both directions of I-275 will be detoured to Kennedy Boulevard around the closed sections of the interstate.
- During this time, the ramp from eastbound SR 60 onto northbound I-275 will also be closed; drivers will need to access northbound I-275 from West Shore Boulevard or other interchanges east of West Shore Boulevard.
- Traffic exiting Tampa International Airport going to eastbound SR 60 and I-275 will be detoured to eastbound Spruce Street/Boy Scout Boulevard, then south on Dale Mabry Highway to access I-275 or continue south to SR 60/Kennedy Boulevard.
- DETOUR for Northbound I-275: All traffic will be directed off at Exit 39 and detoured east on Kennedy Boulevard/SR 60 to Lois Avenue. At Lois Avenue, drivers will turn left and go north to the entrance ramp onto northbound I-275.
- DETOUR for Southbound I-275: All traffic will be directed off at West Shore Boulevard (Exit 40A). After exiting, drivers will turn left and go south to Kennedy Boulevard/SR 60, turn right and go west toward I-275. At the traffic signal on the west side of Westshore Plaza, turn left and go west to the entrance ramp onto southbound I-275.
- DETOUR for Southbound I-275 to Westbound SR 60/Tampa International Airport/Veterans Expressway (Exit 39): Use Exit 40A to West Shore Boulevard. At the end of the ramp, turn right and go north on West Shore Boulevard to Spruce Street. Turn left onto Spruce Street and go west to the entrance to TIA or continue onto westbound SR 60.
- DETOUR for Eastbound SR 60 onto northbound I-275: Traffic will continue past the “loop” entrance ramp onto northbound I-275 and continue east on Kennedy Boulevard/SR 60 to Lois Avenue. At Lois Avenue, drivers will turn left and go north to the entrance ramp onto northbound I-275.
- DETOUR for Lois Avenue onto southbound I-275 and westbound SR 60: Traffic will go south on Lois Avenue, turn right onto Kennedy Boulevard/SR 60, and proceed west. At the traffic signal on the west side of Westshore Plaza, turn left and go west to the entrance ramp onto southbound I-275. To continue west on SR 60 to Tampa International Airport and the Veterans Expressway, continue straight on westbound SR 60 at the traffic signal on the west side of Westshore Plaza.
- Lane closures through Friday from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. on I-275 from west of SR 60 (Exit 39) to Lois Avenue (Exit 40B)
- Lane closures on SR 60 under I-275 through Friday from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m.
- Lane closures on West Shore Boulevard (CR 587) at I-275 through Friday from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m.
- SR 674 (Sun City Center Boulevard) traffic signal improvements at Cortaro Drive, Kings Boulevard, Sun City Center Plaza/Trinity Lakes Drive and Pebble Beach Boulevard cause lane closure of left-turn lanes through Friday from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.
- Expect nightly lane closures through Friday for Interstate 75 repaving from Manatee County Line to CR 672 (Big Bend Road) from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
- Nightly lane closures for SR 60 (Kennedy Boulevard) traffic signal upgrades at Armenia Avenue and Brevard Avenue through Friday from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
- CR 672 (Big Bend Road) bridge replacement from Dickman Road to Wyandotte Road causes 24-hour lane closures through Saturday
- SR 582 (Fowler Avenue) median improvements at 12th Street causes lane closures through Friday from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
- Lane closures are anticipated nightly between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. for I-275 striping between Interstate 4 and Bearss Avenue
- The northbound I-75 rest area in southern Hillsborough County (at mile marker 238) is closed for demolition and reconstruction and will be closed until the new facilities are constructed. Motorists should plan for this rest area to be unavailable for any use until spring 2021. The next open rest area on northbound I-75 is in Pasco County at mile marker 278, 40 miles to the north.
- Lanes will be closed on Dale Mabry and MLK Boulevards for Yankees spring training before and after games on the following dates: Tuesday, 1:05 p.m.; Friday, 6:35 p.m.; Saturday, 1:05 p.m.; Sunday, 1:05 p.m.; March 18, 6:35 p.m.; March 20, 1:05 p.m.; March 22, 1:05 p.m.
- Lanes may be closed nightly between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. through Thursday on State Road 54 from U.S. 41 to Osprey Lane Eastbound curbside lane
- Pasco County, Hillsborough County and the City of Tampa are collaborating to complete an emergency roadway between Mansfield Boulevard in the Meadow Pointe neighborhood and Kinnan Street in Tampa. Work to connect the long-separated roads is scheduled to begin mid-March 2020, and will enhance access for first responders while restricting all other traffic. A gate will limit access, allowing emergency vehicles only once paving is complete. Sidewalks and bicycle lanes along both roads will be joined for pedestrian access. Anticipated completion date is mid-summer 2020
- Outside lane closures may take place through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on State Road 595/Seminole Blvd. for Southern Light Fiber Communication Installation from Ulmerton to 122 Avenue
- Single outside lane closures may take place through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. SR 586/Curlew Road. for Zayo Fiber Communication installation from McMullen Booth to Tampa Road
- 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
- Gateway Expressway (new tolled roadway system) updates:
- Lane closures through Saturday from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. on I-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, and CR 611 / 49th Street from 145th Avenue to Bayside Bridge
- Lane closures through Saturday on 118th Avenue North from U.S. 19 to 34th Street North from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.
- Lane closures/traffic stops/temporary stops through Saturday on SR 688 (Ulmerton Road) from 34th Street to 49th Street N from 9 p.m. to 6 a.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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @AskDrDelay.