Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Monday, January 28, 2013
FDOT urges patience, defends workers on Roosevelt project

Of all the added signs, signals and orange barrels adorning the reconfigured stretch of North Roosevelt Boulevard that has shaken up the main drag of Key West, there is one that the Florida Department of Transportation enjoys most these days.

"IT WILL ALL BE WORTH IT WHEN ITS DONE," says one side of the Travelodge & Suites roadside marquee.

Of course, it's the side that faces the other side of traffic these days.

That is the one forbidden while crews work on the seawall side of Roosevelt, as the $42 million, 27-month project to reconstruct the entire five-lane roadway and seawall, and install some 14 miles of underground pipes for sewer, water and drainage continues.

The project, started April 23, has yet to turn 1-year-old yet the island's residents and visitors have already grown restless with the forced detours that include one long, slow drive from Old Town back to New Town.

Dean Walters, the public relations specialist hired by FDOT only to handle the road project, pointed out the Travelodge's apostrophe-free marquee message to the City Commission this past week as a sign of "community support," that the crews and contractor appreciate.

At Old City Hall on Wednesday, Walters delivered "Progress Report No. 1," dated Jan. 23, as the first in a series of quarterly updates to the City Commission, and answered arguably the most common Key West grumble over the work.

"One of the complaints I get all the time is that no one ever sees more than three to five people working there at a time," said City Commissioner Jimmy Weekley. "The question is why aren't there more people working."

"Have you been looking recently?" Walters asked, saying that on Wednesday 23 workers were on the job.

Weekley said, "I haven't. I stay away from there."

The seawall work is a "three man operation," said Walters.

"This big machine picks up one of these things and hammer drives in into the ground. It doesn't take many people," Walters said.

Commissioner Billy Wardlow said he finds it difficult to turn onto Roosevelt from 5th Street, finding traffic backed up between the highway and its parallel bookend, Flagler Avenue.

"I live on South Roosevelt so I see it every day," said Wardlow, who suggested that maybe an accident brought on a particular traffic jam.

The city's original contract with deMoya, for 820 work days, has grown to 864 due to weather, holidays and other factors that the contractor gets a pass for, the report said.

But deMoya still has an 820-day window in which to finish up early in order to collect the incentive of $10,000 a day.

The new 864 contract day time frame does provide a buffer for the contractor to avoid the "disincentive" bonus of a $10,000 per-day penalty, plus damages, for finishing late.

"We've had a lot of challenges with this," Walters said. "Weather is a big one. Even though the skies may be blue, when it rains on that job site it screws things up for sometimes several days. You can't dig, you can't lay pipe when the ground is soaked like this."

Crews also found underground pipes that aren't shown on the plans, and have had to carefully wedge in new lines.

"It's not just dig a hole and throw a pipe in the ground," Walters said.

The past months have also brought unusually high tides, the report said, and workers have had to maintain the flow of traffic and access to 170 businesses and deal with some odd vandalism.

Someone has been tossing the barrels, affixed with lights, into the harbor, Walters said.

"Workers have to not do work, get in there and clean all that out," he said. "The lights have to be replaced, because the saltwater ruins them. I went by the job site two days ago and approximately a half-mile of barrels had been knocked over the night before."

Key West police have been notified, but the vandalism slows down the work, Walters said.

The latest development in the 2.95-mile long construction zone is the new pedestrian/bicycle path lined with chain-link fence. It was covered with dark green "protective cloth" to keep dust and debris off the lane and bicycle handlebars from getting snagged in the chain-link fencing, according to FDOT.

City Commissioner Tony Yaniz said the construction reminds him of his father's saying that the boogeyman scares you at first, but not after you see him many times.

"We've gotten used to it, it is what it is," said Yaniz.

Yaniz did worry that some of the construction materials, poles and storage boxes, were creating hazards for children near Boog Powell Court.

"It's a disaster, it's a tragedy waiting to happen," Yaniz said, drawing silence as a response.

Walters included the Travelodge marquee shoutout in the first report.

"I love this sign. We are very delighted with that," Walters said. "At the end of it all, we will have a new roadway and new utilities."

gfilosa@keysnews.com

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