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A year left in Linebaugh project

The last phase in the widening project will encompass 1.3 miles of roadway and cost the county $6.6-million.

By TIM GRANT

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 14, 2000


CARROLLWOOD -- County Commissioners hired a construction company last week to complete the final leg of the $31-million Linebaugh Avenue road-widening project, which began four years ago.

Starting in May, the Zicorp construction company will convert Linebaugh Avenue from a 2-lane country road to a 4-lane divided highway from the Plantation of Carrollwood subdivision to Gunn Highway.

A fifth lane will run from Gunn Highway to Dale Mabry Highway to ease congestion caused by cars trying to turn north at Dale Mabry.

In all, the project will encompass 1.3 miles of roadway and cost the county $6.6-million. The work is expected to last a year, said Steve Valdez the county's community relations manager.

"This will represent the final project in the Linebaugh road-widening and improvements, which will take us from Dale Mabry to Race Track Road," Valdez said, adding that Pinellas County will pick up the Linebaugh Avenue project at Race Track Road and extend it to U.S. 19.

The portion of Linebaugh that Westchase developers were required to build from Countryway to Race Track Road is only two lanes. But Valdez said when traffic increases in that area, there is room for the county to add more lanes.

During a series of public meetings last year, residents were opposed to a design feature that prohibited northbound turns onto Gunn Highway. Despite the protest, the plan was not changed.

Eastbound motorists on Linebaugh who wish to go north on Gunn Highway must turn left onto Mullis City Way to reach Gunn. That's because it would have cost the county several millions of dollars to buy the land that was needed to build turn lanes at the intersection of Linebaugh Avenue and Gunn Highway, Valdez said.

"We were encroached on either side of the road and would have had to pay dearly in either case," Valdez said.

If the county had bought part of the parking lot of Bally's Total Fitness on the southwest corner of the intersection, taxpayers would have had to build an $8-million parking garage for the gym.

A hazardous materials site is located on the intersection's northwest corner behind the Amoco gas station. The cost of cleaning that site could also have been more than the total project itself.

As part of the project, new traffic lights also will be installed at the Plantation subdivision entrance, at Linebaugh and Mullis City Way, and at Gunn Highway and Mullis City Way.

The Linebaugh road-widening work was started in 1996 to handle traffic congestion stemming from the growing population and increased development. Valdez said the county anticipates no future improvements on Linebaugh for at least 10 years.

"This will provide an alternative east-west corridor for traffic in and out of Pinellas County," Valdez said. "This will definitely be a major east-west corridor into Hillsborough as well as north and south via the Veterans Expressway."

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