Repaving may start soon

An official says roadway and sidewalk improvements to Tarpon and Pinellas avenues is slated to begin in October.

Published August 3, 2006

TARPON SPRINGS - After years of revisions and escalating cost projections, city officials are cautiously optimistic that the long-awaited reconstruction of Tarpon and Pinellas avenues downtown is on track to begin this fall.

"We're anticipating construction to begin in October," city superintendent of engineering James O. Russell told the City Commission last week. But, he said, the Florida Department of Transportation had yet to give him a firm start date or detailed schedule for the project.

In June, the state awarded Ajax Paving Industries a contract of nearly $17-million to repave a 3-mile stretch of Pinellas Avenue and portions of Tarpon Avenue. The city has contributed about $3-million toward the project, Russell said.

It may sound a bit pricey for a fresh layer of asphalt, especially for streets that are not exactly impassible.

But the road work plan also includes new brick-accented sidewalks, landscaped median islands and fancy traffic signals, not to mention the new underground water and sewer lines that will go underneath.

"Without city's financial contribution, DOT would have just replaced sections of sidewalk panels, there would be no median islands, no brick accents, no decorative mast arms," Russell said.

Early price estimates of about $6-million proved to be overly optimistic. Last June, DOT rejected the first round of bids that ranged from $12-million to $17-million. The state and the city then revised the plans in the hope of attracting less expensive proposals.

But when the revised project was put on for bid in February, Ajax Paving was the lowest - at more than $16.3-million.

Once it gets under way, the roadwork is slated to take up to 640 days, and will exact a yet-to-be-determined toll in terms extra gridlock.

"It is my understanding that certain sections of the roadway will be closed for a certain amount of time," Russell said.

Details will have to come from Ajax, he said, but factors such as weather, work load, crew size will play a part, as well the contract's built-in incentives to finish early and penalties for delay.

After it is completed, city officials said they hope to roll out phase two of the improvement operation: streetscape enhancement, which will add decorative elements such as attractive street lamps, decorative lights that illuminate trees from below and an irrigation system for landscaping.