Longboat Key residents and those just passing through the island were met with traffic delays and lane closures Monday, April 27, courtesy of a Gulf of Mexico Drive repaving project.
The Florida Department of Transportation’s hired contractor, Ajax Paving Industries Inc., started paving the road, also known as State Road 789, at the Manatee-Sarasota county line and is working its way north to the Longboat Pass Bridge.
While the 4.5-mile project has an estimated completion date of July, Florida Department of Transportation public information officer Darren Alfonso said lane closures are not expected beyond four weeks, as long as the weather stays dry.
On Monday and Tuesday, motorists idled an estimated 25 minutes during rush hour and 15 minutes during the mid-afternoon, while waiting for their turn to use the one side of the road that was left open during construction.
On Monday, construction workers closed off a 1.5-mile section of the northbound lane that spanned from the county line near Pattigeorge’s restaurant to The Banyan Club, 5250 Gulf of Mexico Drive. On Tuesday, another 1.5-mile section of the northbound lane was closed off and paved almost to Cannons Marina, 6051 Gulf of Mexico Drive.
While Alfonso said the Florida Department of Transportation usually mandates its construction crews work at night to avoid traffic delays, a town ordinance prevents the state agency from doing just that.
The town’s noise ordinance prevents construction work between the hours of 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. Because of this ordinance, lane closures will be limited to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Public Works Director Juan Florensa said he saw a motorist on Monday morning yelling at a construction crew flagman, who was controlling the flow of traffic.
Police Chief Al Hogle said his department received a few calls from frustrated motorists who had no idea what was causing the traffic delay.
Said Florensa: “We understand this is a huge inconvenience, but there’s no other way to pave the road.”
It could have been worse. The state agency originally planned to perform the work in February, during high season, until Florensa called state officials and urged them to reconsider.
Florensa wants residents to be aware of the construction signs and drive cautiously, even though speed limits are not being reduced during lane-closure hours.
The $1.27 million project will also consist of improvements of the roadway shoulders, as well as signing and pavement markers.
The project is one of 10 Gulf of Mexico Drive improvement projects that are planned for the roadway through 2011.
And, although the Sarasota County portion of the road is not slated for resurfacing until May 2010, Longboaters are forewarned that, starting next month on John Ringling Boulevard, resurfacing begins from Bird Key Drive to Ken Thompson Parkway.
In total, the project spans from Bird Key Drive westward, through St. Armands Circle, all the way to the north-end Longboat Pass Bridge. And, resurfacing from Cortez Road to State Road 64 is scheduled for February 2010.
For more information about the repaving project, contact Alfonso at 813-767-9532 or e-mail him at [email protected]. Visit www.mySR789.com for project updates.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].