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Pair of Projects Fatten Up Congested Roads

Wed May 17, 2000 - Southeast Edition
David Linder

Two Florida Department of Transportation projects are under way in Tampa with the goal of relieving congestion along one of the city’s oldest and busiest roadways.

The projects are taking place along three miles of Tampa’s Hillsborough Avenue. The street, which also is known as State Road 600 and U.S. Highway 92, separates residential areas of the city from commercial parts of Tampa. Hillsborough Avenue also is one of the main streets leading to Tampa International Airport.

Despite the popularity of the avenue, the street is narrow in places. This was especially true at the point where the road crossed the Hillsborough River with just two narrow lanes heading west and two heading east. Alleviating this choke point was the purpose of the projects, according to project officials.

Jim Hubbard, a state Department of Transportation engineer and the manager of the first project, said the bulk of the work at his site is nearly finished. Hubbard said his project, which covers slightly more than a mile of highway from Interstate 275 to Howard Avenue, included reconstructing parts of the highway on each side of the Hillsborough River, upgrading the existing lift bridge and constructing a new bascule bridge.

Hubbard said the next part of his project will be to direct the east bound traffic onto the refurbished bridge, which is in the last stages of finishing work. All traffic is currently using the new, westbound span. “It’s been a lengthy project,” Hubbard said. “We started work on Oct. 2, 1995, and we expect to wind up in mid-May. Constructing a bascule bridge takes a lot of coordination. In ways its like building a house; you have to wait for one thing to be done before you can get a crew in for the next stage.”

The contractor on the project is Archer-Western Contractors Ltd. in Fort Lauderdale. Hubbard said only a limited amount of machinery was used on the project, including front-end loaders, backhoes, graders and other paving equipment. Heavy cranes were used during the bridge construction part of the project, Hubbard said.

The second project picks up where the first ended. The $6 million worth of road work will result in the addition of two more lanes on what is currently the westbound side of the highway. Eventually the road will feature four lanes that will connect to the current four-lane section of highway about two miles to the west. The primary contractor for the state DOT for this project is Overstreet Paving Co. of Largo. Tom Staples, the project manager for Overstreet, said the work began in July 1999 and will be completed in February 2001.

“The job calls for the reconstruction and widening of a portion of Hillsborough Avenue,” Staples said. “We are starting off with new storm drainage, including segments of water and sewer relocation.”

Staples said about 25 pieces of heavy equipment are being used in work along Hillsborough Avenue. The primary equipment being used consisted of Cat graders and backhoes. He said other equipment includes front-end loaders and various types of compaction machinery.

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