Frustrated Pinellas County commuters received a little hope Friday when officials said several construction projects on U.S. 19 in Clearwater would be finished well ahead of the original schedule.
By October 15, drivers will experience no traffic lights on seven miles of the region’s main thoroughfare, enjoying smooth sailing between Palm Harbor and Pinellas Park.
Gov. Rick Scott, with State Sen. Jack Latvala and FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad, released a joint statement announcing the acceleration of current 2.5-mile continuous roadway construction between Whitney Rd. North to State Road 60 in Clearwater.
The FDOT project includes the construction of two new interchanges at Seville Boulevard and Belleair Road, removing traffic signals on U.S. 19 between Whitney Road and S.R. 60, and rebuilding the Gulf-to-Bay overpass.
Also included in the project are pedestrian sidewalks, islands and crossing signals compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. State estimates put the cost of construction at $112 million.
“Thanks to Senator Latvala and families in the region, I’m proud to announce that FDOT has formed an agreement with the contractor to accelerate work, to get everyone off of these service roads sooner,” Scott said. “While the project was slated to be completed by the summer of 2015, with the new agreement we’ll get traffic off the service roads by this October.”
“We’re investing $4.8 million to speed up this work so businesses can be more successful and area residents can spend more time with their families,” Scott added. “This agreement will provide the region a lot of relief, and when all the construction is completed – this area will be more poised to succeed.”
Traffic will shift to a free flow pattern on the heavily traveled north Pinellas highway by October 15, 2014, removing traffic lights on mainline U.S. 19. Ultimately, it will join a stretch of U.S. 19 with no traffic signals between Republic Dr. /Hammock Park Blvd. in Clearwater and Mainlands Blvd. in Pinellas Park.
Latvala was instrumental in developing an accelerated timetable, working with the FDOT, contractors and State Rep. Ed Hooper, Chair of the Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Committee.
The Clearwater Republican was able to change the completion date from the original late 2015, first by having the lead project contractor agree to provide additional resources for a completion date of spring 2015, and then getting them to move the project up an additional six months.
“Accelerating the U.S. 19 project will not only benefit the business community,” Latvala said, “but it will also help the motorists who travel through this corridor every day. This would not have been possible without the combined efforts of Governor Scott, FDOT and the contractor.”
“This project improves the safety of the traveling public, reduces travel time by eliminating congestion and separates local traffic from through traffic by including frontage roads,” Prasad said.