Manhattan Avenue work under way with excitement

The $9.3-million project will widen the road from two to five lanes from Gandy Boulevard to Euclid Avenue.

SHERRI DAY

Published January 27, 2006

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With a backhoe, shovels and visions of stress-free driving, city officials launched construction this week on a project to widen Manhattan Avenue.

Neighborhood activists and city leaders, including Mayor Pam Iorio, gathered at Manhattan near Oakellar Street Tuesday for a groundbreaking ceremony. The $9.3-million project will widen Manhattan from two to five lanes from Gandy Boulevard to Euclid Avenue, transportation officials said.

"Everybody's very excited about it," City Council member John Dingfelder said in an interview later that day. "We need to improve our north-south connections as a peninsula. That has been a dangerous and overutilized stretch of roadway for too many years."

Dingfelder, who represents that area, was especially pleased that the city paid for the majority of the project with developers' impact fees from new construction south of Kennedy Boulevard. Other taxes funded the remaining costs, public works officials said.

Widening Manhattan is the city's latest major road improvement project on South Tampa's most congested streets. In 2004, workers widened West Shore Boulevard south of Gandy Boulevard.

Manhattan improvements, along with the state transportation department's plans to revamp Gandy Boulevard, should help alleviate some of the area's most pressing traffic concerns, city officials said.

"You've got a lot of growth going on down there," said Steve Daignault, the city's public works administrator. "We need access routes (that) take people to the interstate, the Crosstown and allow for that flow of traffic to keep pace with that growth."

On newly refurbished Manhattan, drivers can expect to see new medians, landscaping, sidewalks, bike paths and HARTline bus shelters. Transportation workers plan to install new street lighting and two stormwater retention ponds. The project also calls for enhanced pedestrian crossing and upgrades to a traffic light at Manhattan and Fair Oaks Avenue.

Construction, which planners said should not impede driving, will take place in three phases. First, workers plan to install a new water system and construct a temporary road on Manhattan's east side. The second phase includes the installation of a storm sewer, utilities and new lanes in the center and west side of the road. During this stage, traffic will move to the temporary road, transportation officials said.

In the final construction phase, workers plan to build the permanent road on Manhattan's east side. Workers expect to complete the project in August 2007.

Community leaders hope the project will help ease gridlock on nearby West Shore and Gandy boulevards.

"This project has been needed for years and years," said Al Steenson, chairman of the Gandy Civic Association. "My gut feeling is that it's going to help because the faster you can get through the intersection of Gandy and Manhattan going north, the less traffic is going to back up south of Gandy. Everybody is pleased that this is finally kicking off."

Though valued, the planned improvements are not perfect, said Jerry Frankhouser, president of the recently formed Bayside West Neighborhood Association.

"My only concern is that we need to have a traffic light at the corner of (Manhattan) and Oakellar for the people who are coming out of the Post Office," Frankhouser said. "There's a lot of traffic on Oakellar, and you can't make left turns onto Manhattan."

- Sherri Day can be reached at sday@sptimes.com or 813 226-3405.

http://www.sptimes.com/2006/01/27/news_pf/Citytimes/Manhattan_Avenue_work.shtml

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