CLEARWATER — Drainage problems along Gulf Boulevard make conditions hazardous for bicyclists and pedestrians. The Florida Department of Transportation is currently working on a drainage project to help alleviate some of the problems.
However, officials from the town of Indian Shores say the work doesn’t do enough and they want FDOT to include construction of curbs and sidewalks, as proposed in 2000.
Indian Shores Mayor Patrick Soranno told members of the Forward Pinellas Board June 12 that plans had been in the works since 1997 to make improvements to Gulf Boulevard due to drainage problems and safety concerns.
In 2007, pervious asphalt was installed to try to help with the drainage, but Soranno said it didn’t work because of the sandy conditions. He said it actually made the problem worse. When it rains, water ponds in the pedestrian and bicycle lanes and out into the road.
Police Chief Rick Swann said when that happens, pedestrians and bicyclists walk in the road to avoid the puddles, which is a safety issue. He said they also don’t use the crosswalks because they are flooded.
“This is a priority to us and a big safety concern,” he said, adding that the town understands there is not a lot of right of way, which limits the options.
“We ask that you make us a priority,” he said.
Construction is already underway on a $12.6 million drainage improvement project on Gulf Boulevard from Park Boulevard to Walsingham Road, which includes two new pedestrian crosswalks. FDOT believes the best solution is to finish the drainage project and then come back when funding is available and install curbs and sidewalks.
The drainage project should help with ponding of water on the road, said Alex Henry, FDOT Bicycle/Pedestrian coordinator.
In addition, FDOT has agreed to add six-foot sidewalks to both sides of the road with sod/landscape buffers between the sidewalks and vehicle lanes from Park Boulevard to 195th Avenue as part of the drainage project. Adding the sidewalks would cost an additional $500,000, require a plan revision and change order, he said.
Henry explained that construction of curbs and sidewalks on the remainder of the roadway would not be easy, especially in areas with only a 40-foot right of way, which run from 195th Avenue to the eastern sea wall and from First Avenue to Walsingham Road. A small area, from Park Boulevard to 195th Avenue and from the eastern sea wall to First Avenue has a 50-60 foot right of way.
Forward Pinellas unanimously approved adding future construction of curbs and sidewalks from 195th Avenue to Walsingham Road to the draft Multimodal Project Priority List at its June 12 meeting. FDOT has already developed four possible options for the project.
Forward Pinellas’ Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee, Technical Coordinating Committee and Citizens Advisory Committee picked option two as the preferred solution. Forward Pinellas unanimously picked option 2 at its June 12 meeting. Soranno has not yet presented it to the Town Council.
With option two, the existing 10-foot travel lanes would be maintained with the same street centerline. An eight-foot shared bicycle and pedestrian path would be installed on both sides of the road. Curb and gutter would be added. The cost would be about $10 million.
No additional right of way would be needed; however, it was noted that some residents have encroached onto the public right-of-way over the years with such things as mailboxes, driveways and fences, which would need to be addressed. In addition, FDOT would need construction easements to complete the project.
Forward Pinellas noted that its approval of option 2 hinged on input from Indian Shores. Cost to relocate utilities also was a concern.
FDOT District 7 Secretary David Gwynn said doing the project in two phases was the best solution. He said he would “love to have sidewalks,” but pointed out that money was only available for the drainage project. He is concerned that holding off on that project until money is available to include the sidewalks would create more problems.
“We’re committed to do the sidewalks, but it has to be a two-phase project,” he said.
Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.