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    Lane to close for railroad repair

    A McMullen-Booth lane will be fixed, temporarily, in three hours. A large-scale fix has been delayed.

    By LEON M. TUCKER, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published October 22, 2002

    One lane of southbound McMullen-Booth Road will be closed for three hours starting Thursday night to allow workers to make temporary repairs to a section of the railroad crossing just south of State Road 590.

    "We're only closing down one lane in the southbound direction on the inside," said Jim Collins, division engineer for the county transportation department. "The rubberized panels that are in the track -- some of these are starting to lift up, so they are replacing those."

    The lane will be closed from 10 p.m. Thursday to 1 a.m. Friday.

    County officials first planned to close all lanes of McMullen-Booth in both directions for one to three weeks in November to repair the railroad crossing. Panels that buckle and pop up from the crossing pose a potential danger to motorists who drive over them. Temporary repairs had been needed twice before.

    But after motorists and merchants complained about the plan, county officials put off full repairs.

    In making that decision, officials cited the desire to avoid dumping more traffic onto U.S. 19. Closing McMullen-Booth would add as many as 75,000 vehicles per day to U.S. 19, which sees more than 90,000 motorists daily.

    All this would have taken place during the county's three-year, $30-million project to turn a section of the highway into a six-lane bridge over Drew Street -- meaning a traffic nightmare.

    But some repairs to the McMullen-Booth crossing are still necessary, officials said, because it is more than 10 years old.

    "They are not replacing the whole section," Collins said. "Only the inside needs the repairs.

    "But you can foresee more of this happening three years from now," he added. "If another one pops up we would have to replace that."

    -- Leon M. Tucker can be reached at 445-4167 or .

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