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U.S. 19 project on fast track to completion
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Photo courtesy of FDOT
Two new interchanges, including one at Belleair Road, are designed to improve traffic movement between U.S. 19 and frontage roads that provide access to businesses.
CLEARWATER – Good news from Tallahassee should make residents and businesses in Pinellas County very happy.

The current U.S. 19 construction project from north of Whitney Road to State Road 60 in Clearwater has a new estimated completion date – October of this year – instead of the summer of 2015.

Gov. Rick Scott, Sen. Jack Latvala and Ananth Prasad, Florida Department of Transportation secretary, announced that the project had been accelerated Jan. 10 during a meeting at the Embassy Mobile Home Park, 16416 U.S. 19 in Clearwater.

“Thanks to Sen. 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 these service roads sooner,” Scott said in a press release.

The cost to accelerate the project is $4.8 million.

When complete, the 2.7-mile project, which began in November 2009 with an estimated cost of $113.5 million, will allow for uninterrupted travel from 49th Street to Sunset Point Road, according to FDOT’s project description.

Project plans calls for removing traffic signals and replacing them with interchanges at Seville Boulevard and Belleair Road. Frontage roads will provide access to businesses with improvements to the interchange at State Road 60 to improve traffic flow.

“This project improves the safety of the traveling public, reduces travel time by eliminating congestion and separate local traffic from through traffic by including frontage roads,” Prasad said.

In the summer of 2013, the contractor began construction of the main roadway lanes from south of Harn Boulevard to Whitney Road. Plans called for completion of southbound bridges and approaches for use by northbound and southbound traffic by early 2014. Construction on the northbound bridge over Seville Boulevard was next, followed by removal of the old bridge over State Road 60.

In the spring of this year, plans called for the contractor to begin construction on the northbound bridge and approach with completion of the bridge over Belleair Road and Allen’s Creek slated for completion by summer. The entire project was to be finished by summer of 2015.

“Accelerating the U.S. 19 project will not only benefit the business community, but it will also help the motorists who travel this corridor every day,” Latvala said, giving credit for fast tracking the project to Scott, FDOT and the contractor, Hubbard Construction.

New plans call for the contractor to shift traffic to a “free flow configuration” by Oct. 15, Scott said. All signals on U.S. 19 within the project area will be removed, creating a signal-free corridor between Republic Drive/Hammock Park Boulevard in Clearwater to Mainlands Boulevard in Pinellas Park.

Pinellas County Commission Chair Karen Seel reacted favorably to the governor’s announcement.

“I am very pleased with the news that U.S. 19’s construction will be accelerated,” Seel said in an email Sunday afternoon.

Seel has long been a champion for improvements to U.S. 19. She chaired the U.S. 19 Task Force, which put forth a list of recommendations in 2000 to improve the roadway. Many of those recommendations were added to FDOT’s work list, including current projects, such as the one from Whitney Road to State Road 60.

However, she acknowledges that the work has been an inconvenience for many, which is why acceleration of the project is so important.

“Our citizens and businesses have endured this construction far too long,” Seel said. “We look forward to the completion of U.S. 19 for safety and traffic reasons. Yeah!”
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