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    Dark zone on U.S. 19 to brighten

    Lights along the 5-mile stretch from Clearwater to Palm Harbor should go on by the end of February.

    By ED QUIOCO

    © St. Petersburg Times, published January 27, 2001


    PALM HARBOR -- After about a year of delays, a dark stretch of U.S. 19 is scheduled to get street lights by the end of February.

    Work has resumed on the project to install 199 street lights on a 5-mile stretch of U.S. 19 from Evans Road near Countryside Mall in Clearwater to Alderman Road in Palm Harbor.

    The tall metal poles already had been installed on the sides of the road. But the contractor, Mid-Continent Electric of Naples, walked off the $1.1-million project in December before finishing the electrical work.

    Another company, Highway Safety Devices of Plant City, has been hired to finish the project, said Kris Carson, Florida Department of Transportation spokeswoman. Workers began Jan. 18 on the final wiring and should finish in 28 days.

    "They are working really fast out there," Carson said. "Basically, things have greatly improved with the job."

    The project was originally scheduled to be completed last March. Mid-Continent Electric walked off the project four months after filing for protection from its creditors under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, according to the state.

    Mid-Continent Electric was suspended from bidding on other DOT projects and was fined $1,216 a day beginning Aug. 31. Carson said the state is no longer working with Mid-Continent Electric on the project.

    "We are really not dealing with them anymore," Carson said.

    Instead, the state is working with the surety company that insured the project. The surety company arranged for Highway Safety Devices to finish the job.

    Carson said the wiring is complete for 80 of the 199 poles, and the rest are scheduled to be complete in eight to 10 days. When that is done, the final tests and finishing touches are all that are left before the lights can be turned on.

    "Once the poles are wired into the system, they can be energized and they will be finished," Carson said.

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