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Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Monday, October 1, 2012
Businesses worry about impact of highway projects

Concerned residents up and down the Overseas Highway made their way to the Key Largo Public Library last week to question representatives from the Florida Department of Transportation about upcoming highway construction.

Cleveland Mathis, manager of Monroe County Tom Thumb stores, said he worries the road projects may deter customers.

"My main worry is whether they planned on putting up a stoplight," he said.

Mathis said a temporary stoplight at a competing store could hurt him financially especially leading up to the winter busy season. No such lights are planned.

The project manager for the construction project said most of the worries were coming from businesses concerned about whether the project will stymie profits.

"People have reasonable concerns about their businesses," said Javier Manso of HDR Engineering.

Manso spent much of his time at the meeting going station to station where the projects were on display to ease the concerns of residents, including some concerns from the Hammer Point neighborhood regarding a possible temporary U-turn.

According to FDOT, five roadway projects are planned over the next two years and are expected to cost about $18 million.

Parts of the Overseas Highway from Mile Marker 99.6 to 106.3 will be closed 280 days beginning in April. Work includes repairing and restriping parts of the Overseas Highway, providing paved five-foot northbound and southbound shoulders, repaving the Florida Keys Heritage Trail/bicycle path and improving drainage structures.

From Mile Markers 90.74 to 97, plans call for repaving and restriping the highway, repairing guardrails on the Tavernier Creek Bridge, repaving the Heritage Trail/bike path, installing a pedestrian crosswalk at Ocean Boulevard and other basic improvements. Work is expected to begin in January 2014.

During both projects, officials expect temporary road, lane and sidewalk closures.

Because of Islamorada's plans to build a sewer pipeline to the Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District plant, Wes Self of Reynolds Water Islamorada attended the meeting. Newly-appointed Islamorada Mayor Ken Philipson was also there to address any concerns.

County Commissioner Sylvia Murphy and Key Largo Chamber of Commerce President Randy King were also in attendance.

"Our chamber members want to make sure we have proper signage to have customers get in and out of businesses," King said.

Discussed in previous chamber meetings among business owners, King reiterated the need that construction managers be conscious of the economic impact.

"They need to be very sensitive on the weekends," he said.

King also said that a sign should be put up to let visitors know the importance of the project and to excuse the work during the course of the projects.

"We need the people to keep coming down from Miami," he said.

jgore@keysnews.com

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