PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- People who live and work along Tampa Road in Palm Harbor say construction work on the medians between Lake St. George and McMullen Booth is putting them in danger.
As crews work to replace the temporary medians with more permanent concrete medians, traffic is forced to merge from three lanes down to two, and drivers say that is creating chaos as drivers dart into the path of oncoming traffic. Other drivers trying to make U-turns are making the dangerous situation even worse, they claim.
In a moment, Jaime Lucero’s life nearly changed forever. Lucero, who works as an office manager at a doctor's office on Tampa Road, was involved in a serious car crash Tuesday. “The impact of the crash picked up my jeep and threw me up onto the curb,” Lucero explained pointing at her damaged Jeep.
Lucero was sitting at a stop sign at Tampa Road and Calibre Downs Ln. when a driver in a silver car tried to cut over three lanes of traffic while turning left. That driver darted out in front of a mom with two kids inside the car. The two cars collided and barreled into Lucero's car, which was not in motion.
“It was quite traumatizing," she exclaimed.
Lucero says the construction on Tampa Road made it nearly impossible for the mom driving in the blue car to see the silver car pulling out into her lane.
“Something is wrong here,” Lucero added, referring to the area where construction is taking place.
She’s not alone. Several other drivers tell ABC Action News the construction on Tampa Road is forcing cars to merge and dart into nearby traffic.
Nichole Georgatos drives through the area daily. She lives at an apartment complex off of Tampa Road.
“It was already congested before but this just taking away that one lane has made a huge impact on traffic," she said.
Sherri Oracion lives in the same complex. “It seems like there have been way more accidents since the construction for sure. I can think of 4 just within the last two weeks," she explained.
ABC Action News pulled crash numbers from FHP and found out there have been 53 crashes on Tampa Road between Lake St George and McMullen Booth in just the past year.
Since construction started on November 11, 2017, there have been 2 more accidents a month than the average before construction started. Over the past year, 18 people have been injured on that stretch of road, 8 of those were during the construction on the medians.
“When I just to go the the store, I feel like I’m taking my life into my hands," Oracian elaborated.
The project to add more permanent medians on Tampa Road was originally scheduled to wrap up on February 10, but Pinellas County leaders tell us Hurricane Irma and its aftermath set back the project. It is now scheduled to be done in exactly one week, Feb. 28.
Georgatos hopes it happens soon. “They need to get this done now!,” she exclaimed.
Until then, Paula McDowell has a routine. She draws a little cross on her windshield before every drive. “I trace a little cross on my window with my finger and say 'Ok God, protect me out here because it is bad'. It’s bad without construction and way worse with construction," she said.
Pinellas County Transportation leaders tell ABC Action News their crews are doing everything in accordance with FDOT standards. Since we started calling, they've promised to reach out to the drivers with concerns and take a second look at the area to make sure it is as safe as possible, which could include making "modifications to the maintenance of the traffic plans", if warranted.