BROOKSVILLE - Motorists heading east into Brooksville on State Road 50 have been dealing with periodic lane closures and rough spots in the pavement for months.
As of today, that project is about halfway completed.
The $2.5 million Florida Department of Transportation project started in mid May when the agency hired D.A.B. Constructors to repave West Jefferson Street between Cortez Boulevard and North Mildred Avenue.
The drainage part of the project is complete and the first layer of asphalt has been placed for sidewalks, according to FDOT Public Information Specialist Kris Carson.
The project is expected to be finished in early 2014.
There are several road enhancements going on at the same time. New 5-foot wide sidewalks are being built along both sides of the road in the areas between Cortez and Southeast Avenue, where none currently exist. Damaged sidewalks will be repaired between Southeast Avenue and Mildred Avenue.
County Commission Chairman Dave Russell said it is surprising to find sidewalks along roads that - at least right now - no pedestrians or bicyclists seem to be using.
That would apply to the stretch of SR 50 from around Winter Street east to Cobb Road, he said.
Some critics have called them the "sidewalks to nowhere."
"Sometimes it just doesn't make any rhyme or reason and that's unfortunate," Russell said.
The idea, he said, is to provide alternate transportation routes that may be used as the area develops with retail stores and is more populated.
"People may start using them but right now it just doesn't make much sense," he said. "I don't know, maybe it's cheaper to build them now."
Carson said it is her agency's policy to follow its roadway design plans preparation manual on all projects, including the ongoing one in Brooksville.
The language in that policy states that sidewalks will be built in buffer zones, unless areas outside the right of way are required or the cost of the sidewalk is more than 25 percent of the overall project cost.
"Unfortunately, Florida is twice the national average for pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities," Carson said. "We are working hard to turn these numbers around and our efforts are paying off. But we recognize we still have more work to do."
Several counties are already seeing a reduction in crashes, due to engineering changes that include more bike lanes and sidewalks, she said.
In related news:
The widening of SR 50, from U.S. 19 to Wiscon Road, is proceeding on schedule. The $39 million project started in October 2012 and is expected to finish up in the summer of 2015.
The contractor is almost done paving the median area from Mariner Boulevard to the Suncoast Parkway, Carson said. Crews are also working on water lines and, starting Sunday, there will be lane closures from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. for pipe crossing along SR 50.
When completed, SR 50 will expand from a four-lane divided highway to six lanes between U.S. 19 and the Suncoast Parkway. Crews are installing new sidewalks on the north side of the road and a multi-use path built on the south side.
Traffic signals and poles are being replaced with new hurricane-resistant ones at Nightwalker Road and July Avenue, Oak Hill Hospital Road, Highpoint Boulevard and Kadri Boulevard, Mariner Boulevard, Coastal Boulevard, Sunshine Grove Road and Twin Dolphin Drive and Brookridge Central Boulevard and Barclay Avenue.