Study shows east side of Belleair Bluffs roads need work

Most of the roads on Belleair Bluffs’ east side are in poor condition, with cracking, potholes, and patches, like this view of Dolphin Drive. The city is setting priorities for repairing the roads, starting this year and continuing over a number of years.

BELLEAIR BLUFFS – A “walk-through” study of residential roads on the city’s east side showed nearly all are in serious enough condition to be considered high priority for repairs.

An evaluation of the roadways east of Indian Rocks Road was presented at the Feb. 12 City Commission meeting. Bill Reidy, chief engineer of Advanced Engineering & Design, Inc., said the survey showed “a pretty significant percentage (82 percent)” of roadways surveyed fell into the “worst condition” category.

In the study, the worst condition roadways “exhibit high levels of stress, poor finish or surface spalling,” and are rated Priority One for repair. Those roads are Belmar, Dolphin, Marlin, Mineola and Bel Forest drives; North Overbrook, Indian, North Indian, South Indian, and Lanai avenues; Pine Tree Lane, Jewel Court and Temple Lane.

Only two roadways, West Overbook Street and Duncan Drive, were rated in the less serious Priority Two condition, “exhibiting mid-to-high levels of stress and moderate amounts of surface cracking,” the study found.

Just one road, South Wind Drive, was in the Priority Three category, which is “exhibiting low levels of stress and minor surface cracking.”

Reidy’s study contains photos showing numerous examples of various types of cracking, disintegration, cuts, distortion and other problems with the roads. The needed repairs are detailed, but no actual costs are given.

Though the damage to most of the roads is significant, Reidy said many could be fixed with a repair method called “full depth reclamation” instead of total reconstruction, which is the most expensive choice. In any case, the repairs will be costly.

Reidy said the city needs to be moving forward with the repairs project.

“Roadways don’t fix themselves,” he said.

Without action, he said, “the problems will only get worse.”

The work he is recommending would extend the surface life on the roads for another 20 years without the need for major repairs, Reidy said.

The condition of the city’s residential streets east of Indian Rocks Road has been known for some time. Road work has been concentrated on the roads west of Indian Rocks Road, where added drainage issues have made matching grant funds available from the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

Mayor Chris Arbutine said the commission passed a utility tax increase last year to get money to do the road work needed.

“We are now going to be targeting the east side of Indian Rocks Road,” he said.

The question is, “How much money do we have and where do we want to start,” Arbutine said. “We are eager to start the project.”

City Clerk Debra Sullivan said the priorities and timetable for the road repairs will be based on the level of need versus the funding.

Reidy said he will now get input from the county, and also get geotechnical input relating to the repairs to be done. That includes taking core samples from each of the roads to determine the depth of the asphalt top layer and the road base. The easiest repairs involve simply scraping and replacing the asphalt. Other roads may require rebuilding the road base and adding a new asphalt layer.

Old fire station uses to be workshop topic

City Clerk Sullivan said she continues to get offers from potential buyers of the old fire station property on Indian Rocks Road. The building became available when new fire station #43 opened last fall.

One potential buyer offered $450,000 and wants to open a doggie day care center, Sullivan said. A realtor representing a “very interested” non-profit offered $520,000, she said.

Arbutine said the city needs to discuss the issue at an upcoming workshop session, and “decide what we want (the station) to be.”

“If we are going to sell it, decide how much we want for it and sell it. If we are going to use it for something, decide what, and use it,” Arbutine said.

The old fire station issue will be on the workshop agenda next month.

Traffic problems on West Bay Drive discussed

A recent “horrible accident” on West Bay Drive in front of the Publix store shows the city needs to look at the traffic problems at that location, Commissioner Suzy Sofer said.

The accident, which caused considerable damage to the cars but no injuries, involved a motorist making a left turn from the Publix parking lot, she said.

Sofer said the city should consider allowing right turns only out of Publix onto West Bay. Arbutine said that would “piss off people who live on the beach.”

Many drivers cut through the Walgreens parking lot to reach the light on Indian Rocks Road, Sofer said. Though that is illegal, Sofer said the drugstore manager does not mind as some stop and shop.

The commissioners agreed traffic is a problem coming in and out of the Publix, but reached no solution for dealing with it.