Gandy Boulevard upgrades near completion
July 9, 2009
Jerry Frankhouser said he has learned to turn out of the Dunkin' Donuts parking lot onto Gandy Boulevard in order to make a U-turn and get back to his Bayside West house.
It took patience and some practice to make the move seamless. As president of the Bayside West Neighborhood Association, Franknouser said, he is one of many people learning to deal with the aftermath of safety and aesthetic changes to a stretch of Gandy Boulevard between the Gandy Bridge and Dale Mabry Highway.
"There'll be a little training session as people get used to the traffic patterns but we're thankful for the upgrade," Frankhouser said. "It looks nice. It's got personality."
He said many people speak favorably of the project. Two notable exceptions: merchants who say new Gandy Boulevard medians limit access to their businesses; and residents of the Regency Cove community, who now must make U-turns when exiting their neighborhood to head east on Gandy, or when entering from the west.
"We fought and fought and fought for them to address that," Frankhouser said, expressing disappointment with state transportation officials who are overseeing the road reconstruction project. "I would have thought they could have designed something that would have worked."
The good news for residents is the $20 million project, including $161,000 in landscaping, almost is complete -- ahead of schedule by a couple of months. No more orange construction cones; no more closed lanes. Marian Scorza, spokeswoman for Florida's Department of Transportation, said contractors have until fall to complete the project, but hope it will be done by late summer.
"It all depends on the weather, and we're going into hurricane season here, so we've been getting a lot more rain," Scorza said. "They are hoping to get it done earlier, though."
Scorza said remaining work includes applying a final layer of asphalt, more landscaping and adding three electric message signs that warn drivers of traffic delays and predict destination arrival times. The message signs will span halfway across the road and will be located eastbound over Gandy about 200 feet from the Gandy Bridge and at Clark Avenue. There will be a sign over westbound lanes of Gandy at Trask Street.
The project converted Gandy from a five-lane highway with a center turn lane to a four-lane divided highway with a 30-foot wide median.
Sidewalks run from Dale Mabry to Bridge Street on both sides of the roadway. There are multi-use paths on both sides of Gandy between Bridge Street and the Friendship Trail. Improvements at Gandy's intersection with Manhattan Avenue include double left turns in all directions and dedicated right turn lanes.
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