U.S. 19 construction in Clearwater may be completed before previously planned

CLEARWATER, Fla. - As cars and trucks stack up in traffic along U.S. 19 in Clearwater, drivers grow frustrated.

"It takes forever to get through here," said Crystal Senn, who does her best to avoid the stretch just north of East Bay Dr. through Drew St.

Motorists have been coping with the construction along U.S. 19 in Clearwater since 2009.

"Truly, it's actually gotten worse, I think. It's been really bad," said Steve Dippolito.

It's equally frustrating for business owners like Nancy Bowers. Her Italian market has barely survived along the construction route.

"It's been tough for the past 4 years, it's been a nightmare really," said Bowers.

Now, relief may be coming sooner than planned.

"Originally, the project wasn't going to be done until late 2015," explained Kris Carson with the Florida Department of Transportation.

Governor Rick Scott has pledged almost $5 million to help accelerate the project that is currently not behind schedule.
"That'd be great," said Marie Sartiano, who must navigate the construction zone daily.

So just how will an additional nearly $5 million allow this project along U.S.19 to be completed quicker?

"Well, $3.2 million is going to go to the contractor so they can bring in more manpower and more resources.  Essentially work more hours with more people," Carson added.

An additional $1.6 million in incentives are available if milestones are met. Completion of the southbound bridge over Gulf to Bay by mid-April of this year is the first.

Perhaps the most significant milestone date is October 15, 2014, when all traffic will be shifted away from the frontage roads and onto mainline U.S.19, creating a signal-free corridor from 49th St. all the way north past Countryside Mall to Republic Dr.. Completion of the entire project is expected next spring.

"Hopefully they'll finish much before then and it'll be better for all of us," said Bowers.


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