West Bay Drive improvement project

This rendering shows one of two new midblock crossings with pedestrian-activated flashing beacons that will be part of a project to improve West Bay Drive. The project is expected to begin Oct. 7.

LARGO — City commissioners paved the way for a project to repair and improve the downtown section of West Bay Drive on Aug. 20 when they voted 6-0 to award a $3.51 million contract to David Nelson Construction Co.

The vote means the city intends to start the multimodal improvement project on the half-mile stretch of road Oct. 7, said Barry Westmark, a senior engineer with the city.

“This infrastructure project provides design features that are a catalyst for transformation of the West Bay Drive corridor between Missouri Avenue and Clearwater-Largo Road,” he said, adding that it is “intended to create an attractive and inviting place for people to walk, shop and live.”

The improvements were originally estimated to cost $2.3 million, but the scope of the project has grown to include:

• Reconstructing the sidewalks;

• Replacing the existing lighting with pedestrian-friendly LEDs and 5G-capable poles;

• Installing updated benches, bike racks, and bus shelters;

• Constructing two new midblock crossings with pedestrian-activated flashing beacons, and high-visibility crosswalks west of Second Street and west of Fifth Street;

• Milling, resurfacing, and re-striping of the asphalt and improving the diagonal parking lots from Fourth Street Southwest to Ridge Road.

Westmark said the Palm Harbor-based Nelson Construction Co. can lay about 300 tons of asphalt each day, which means it will take about two weeks to mill and resurface the road.

“We’ll have one lane open each direction … and one lane closed,” he said.

The entire project is expected to be completed by August 2020.

Commissioner Curtis Holmes said several downtown business owners have expressed concerns about the construction’s impact, so he urged city staff to keep them apprised of the scope and schedule of the project.

Westmark said staff had already sent out about 600 postcards informing them about the project and held an open house downtown on Aug. 21.

The project is also meant to complement other enhancements and redevelopment downtown, including a new plaza at the southwest corner of West Bay Drive and Seminole Boulevard, the West Bay Lofts mixed-use development at the 500 and 600 blocks, a new townhome community on the south side of West Bay Drive and Ridge Road, and the construction of a new trailhead at West Bay Drive and the Pinellas Trail.

The majority of the funding for the improvements will come from the county gas tax, $863,000, and $2.55 million from the West Bay Drive Community Redevelopment District fund, which is comprised of property tax revenues.

In other news

• Commissioners voted 6-0 to spend $280,580 in county gas tax and Penny for Pinellas sales tax funds for a project making pavement and drainage improvements to the .06-mile roadway into the Public Works Complex and Largo Middle School.

• Police Chief Jeff Undestad introduced the newest members of the Largo Police Department. 

The officers who were sworn in Aug. 20 are Brandon Hubbard, Ashley Hunt and David Neverline.