Florida Keys News
Sunday, December 2, 2012
Road closure creates turnarounds

A portion of Thomas Street just behind the Freeman Justice Center in Key West will be closed to through traffic for as long as six months while construction crews complete renovations to the courthouse.

Workers closed about 160 feet on the 500 block of Thomas Street just behind the courthouse to give crews room to complete a new drug court project to cost about $600,000, said Monroe County Project Management Director Jerry Barnett.

"The construction contract for that project is for six months, but we're hoping it won't take quite that long," Barnett said.

The street closure still allows for access to the county employee parking lot behind the courthouse and to Truman Annex at Fleming Street, but through traffic will be closed indefinitely, until the project is done, Barnett said.

Some flooring at ground level and walls needs to be demolished, work that will require access for heavy machinery, he added.

The same area of Thomas Street was closed for about four years -- from 2004 to 2008 -- when the Freeman Justice Center was being built.

"We did it this way so we could confine everything to Thomas Street and not involve any other street," Barnett said.

The drug court project is beginning this month.

The drug court will be moved from the old courthouse to the ground floor of the Freeman Justice Center, currently be used as storage space.

That space initially was intended for cars to park under the building, at street level, according to the Dodge Lead Center website.

That site defines the area as generally a rectangle, about 132 feet long and 20 feet deep. The project is being funded through money collected from traffic citations.

Meanwhile, a project to expand the Freeman Justice Center's lobby is also planned. That work, slated to begin in February, is expected to cost between $200,000 to $300,000. Officials want more room in the security area.

The $18.1 million courthouse is just four years old, but the design oversight on the lobby has caused headaches ever since the new facility opened in 2008.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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