BROOKSVILLE - The widening of State Road 50, from U.S. 19 to the Suncoast Parkway, is almost two months behind schedule.
Florida Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kris Carson said the contractor, D.A.B. Constructors, took vacation time during Christmas and New Year's holidays.
"Since then, they have been working full-time on the project and ... added another crew to install drainage pipes at night," Carson wrote in an email last week. "The drainage operation is the critical work at this time on the project."
Carson said more crews are arriving so production should pick up. Some of the work related to the 6-mile-long project, such as pond work and drainage, goes on behind the scenes and motorists might not see visual progress on the road itself, she said. D.A.B. typically works 10 hours a day, Monday through Thursday, and eight hours on Friday, Carson said.
"There also is work planned on some upcoming weekends and night work as well," she said.
Carson said being 51 days behind schedule is not a concern in a contract allowing 925 days for completion.
County Commissioner Jim Adkins said he believes the six-laning project should be given top priority, given State Road 50's importance as a vital east-west corridor.
Adkins said he has received complaints from motorists who say they see concrete barriers but few workers, and he understands their frustration.
Adkins said he wonders if D.A.B. is stretched too thin on other projects.
Carson said D.A.B. currently is working on five other projects in this part of Florida, including resurfacing other roads in Hernando and a project in Pinellas County.
The entire winding project was bid at $39.4 million and is projected to be completed in late 2015. Carson said the time frame accounts for more weather days that are likely.
The project has forced motorists to slow down to 45 mph as they navigate through concrete barriers and around work crews.
The project also includes installation of a sidewalk, bicycle lanes and highway lighting.
Many business owners along the stretch have complained of excess congestion and a fall-off of potential customers who choose not to drive in the area during construction.
"It aggravates a lot of people from businesses to residents trying to get back and forth to their employment," Adkins said. "People driving there the last week or two get angry when they don't see anyone working and all they see are those cement barricades. They don't see any work being done."
Carson said there are no incentives built into D.A.B.'s contract for early completion.
But if the company exceeds the contract time, it would be assessed liquidated damages of $8,836 per day.
County Commissioner Diane Rowden said she drives the stretch of State Road 50 often from Nightwalker Road into the city and realizes how frustrating it is seeing so many barricades and lane tweaks.
Rowden said she contacted the engineers and found D.A.B. has formed teams that tackle certain parts of the road at certain times.
There are retention ponds, water pipes and other infrastructure improvements that must be done in addition to the actual road, she said.
For example, Rowden said, she noticed much of the work the other day was concentrated near U.S. 19.
The widening is going to require patience and safe driving until it is completed, she said.
"You're talking about a major, major road where you had to tear the whole thing up but still keep it operating," Rowden said.