Construction begins in preparation for 2012 Grand Prix

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Little more than a month remains before St. Petersburg welcomes fast cars, world-class drivers, and auto racing fans from around the globe to the 2012 Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, March 23-25. This year’s event kicks off a 16-race IndyCar season with stops in the U.S., Canada, and China. Last year’s winner Dario Franchitti, along with second-place finisher Will Power, will be back with their teams to defend their titles.

With just 36 days remaining until the race, construction begins tomorrow, February 17, on the 1.8 mile, 14-turn course.  That’s when road closure and construction signs begin to pop up, signaling the start of spring and construction season for the three-day event. Using 20 thousand feet of steel-reinforced concrete barriers and 44 thousand feet of chain-link fencing, crews will turn downtown streets into a 1.8 mile, 14-turn thrill ride for racing fans, as well as IndyCar drivers alike.

Bayshore Dr. S.E. at First Ave. S.E. will close at First Ave. S. to prepare for the construction.  Eastbound Dali Blvd./Fifth Ave. S. will be restricted to local traffic at First St. S. starting at 5 a.m. Friday. Albert Whitted Park will also close to motorized and pedestrian traffic and remain closed through Sunday, April 15.  Everyone is advised to observe posted warning signs and stay away from entering closed construction areas. Entrance accommodations will be available for employees of Albert Whitted Airport, FAA officials, The Mahaffey and The Dali in order to access their destinations during early construction.

Phase one construction starts February 17 with erection of the block and fence on Bayshore Dr. S.E., followed by phase two on February 22, when the groundwork is laid for Pit Lane and the grandstands in Albert Whitted Park.  On Tuesday, February 28, workers will begin the third phase of construction by laying the block and fence from the pits out to First St.

Workers installing the barrier system will move north along First St. on Thursday, March 8, enclosing Pioneer Park, Bayfront Towers and the St. Petersburg Yacht Club. Temporary openings in the barrier will accommodate limited traffic flow and serve as an entry point for events at Al Lang Stadium, The Mahaffey, the Dali Museum and for guests of the downtown Hilton.

On Saturday, March 17, remaining streets affected by the race will close by Wednesday, March 21. Following the race, most streets are expected to open by Tuesday, March 27 with Bayshore Dr. S.E. re-opening to traffic by 5 p.m. on Friday, April 6.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.