Three months ago, Florida’s Department of Transportation said the road’s widening from U.S. 19 east to the Suncoast Parkway was 51 days behind schedule because of bad weather and holidays. Also, work crews had to do preliminary drainage work before devoting full attention to the actual road widening, said FDOT spokeswoman Kris Carson.
But now the $39.4 million project is on target to meet the scheduled completion set for the summer of 2015, Carson wrote in an email Thursday. The contractor, D.A.B. Constructors, brought in two extra work crews to make up lost time, Carson said.
“That’s great,” said County Commissioner Jim Adkins, who explained the project has created a hardship for business owners who complain of congestion and a fall-off of patronage from people who choose not to drive in the area during construction.
Adkins said he has noticed more work crews along State Road 50 and the number of complaints has fallen off.
D.A.B. Constructors was given 925 days to do the job. If it exceeds that contract time, the company will be assessed liquidated damages of $8,836 per day.
When done, the 6-mile stretch of State Road 50 will be widened from four to six lanes.
There will be a new 5-foot sidewalk along the north side of the road along that stretch. On the south side, there will be a 10-foot multi-use path for pedestrians and bicyclists extending from U.S. 19 to Wiscon Road, just north of the parkway access.
Some people continue to question the necessity of sidewalks along major roads, especially when they are built in areas of limited commercial and residential activity. But workers must follow the state’s specifications manual on all projects, Carson said.
“The language in (the manual) has been clarified by our state office in Tallahassee to mean that sidewalk(s) shall be added in buffer zones unless area outside of the right-of-way is required or the cost of the sidewalk is more that 25 percent of the overall project cost,” Carson said.
Carson said buffer zones are based on population density and do not rely on the current land use.
Another reason for the sidewalks, Carson said: They cut down on pedestrian fatalities and injuries.
Pat Crowley, president of the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce, welcomed word of the road construction project’s progress and said she would like to see the road completed in time for the opening of the new Cortez Commons, at the southwest corner of State Road 50 and Mariner Boulevard.
Road widening projects never are good short-term news for business owners, but the end result usually is positive because it enhances access to their establishments, she said.
“Deadlines are deadlines and unfortunately sometimes they are not met and the businesses are the ones feeling the impact,” she said.