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Florida Keys News
Sunday, May 5, 2013
N. Roosevelt Blvd. project a year old
Locals forced to adapt to long-term reconstruction

Key West has just marked the one-year anniversary of the state's $41.5 million reconstruction of North Roosevelt Boulevard, the project that elicits groans from locals and isn't even halfway done.

Friday, day No. 376, the drainage and roadway re-haul that began last April 23 was 43 percent done, with completion set for August 2014, according to project spokesman Dean Walters.

Those forced to adjust schedules and patience levels due to work crews and jagged streets know that even major construction, too, shall pass.

"I'm happy with it," said City Commissioner Billy Wardlow, whose district includes the construction zone and whose driveway is on South Roosevelt Boulevard. "After a year, traffic seems to be moving a lot better than it was in the beginning,"

Wardlow says it's still tough to get out of his driveway most mornings and traffic jams up the worst between 4 and 5 p.m.

"It builds up from the Triangle back to Flagler Avenue," said Wardlow. "(But) I think it's worth the wait and the suffering."

The promenade on the waterfront remains closed, with bicyclists and pedestrians confined to the dedicated, specially built lane separated by a concrete barrier and chain-link fencing.

That bike lane will be up for the duration of the project.

"Please use caution," Walters wrote in Friday's brief progress report.

Contractors and state officials say unforeseen obstacles, from weather to finding pipes underground that weren't in the blueprints and even some vandalism, have kept the project from speeding along.

The state is, after all, reconstructing the entire roadway and seawall from Eisenhower Drive to U.S. 1, replacing the original city water main the Navy installed in the early '40s and sewer lines.

"Pretty much every day we're running into something that isn't on the plans that we have to deal with," Walters told the City Commission at its April 2 meeting, the second such update from the full-time public relations specialist contracted specifically for the project.

The project is 45 days behind schedule, he said, due to weather as well as workers discovering unmapped metals underground in the worst way possible.

"This isn't just road construction," Walters said Saturday.

Some of the surprising pipeline that turned up in the excavation broke the crew's 6-inch wide steel drill. "It took two weeks to get another machine down here."

Primary contractor the de Moya Group of Miami is devising ways to catch up to the original, 820-day schedule, said Walters. "There is no way he wants to be here one minute longer than he has to," he said. "For every day people are down here he has to put them up in a hotel."

De Moya is shooting for October to make the huge switch to the opposite lane. Sixty-five percent of the whole project is on the waterfront side.

Crews so far have installed 200,000 pounds of steel rebar on the 9-inch seawall cap replacing railings. Work space is limited, traffic must keep moving, and access to 170 businesses must be maintained. Traffic signals and streetlights will get buffed up, and sidewalks compliant with the Americans with Disabilities law installed.

New businesses have popped up in spite of the project, including a Mattress Firm store and a new motorcycle shop. An ice cream shop opened recently by Five Guys Burgers Fries in Overseas Plaza, which also opened after construction started. Liquid 8 Pawn wants to relocate to 1970 N. Roosevelt Blvd. and add a tattoo parlor, Venomis Ink, to the same building, formerly Conchy Joe's, vacant since 2008.

Wardlow sees the year anniversary as a badge of honor for the island, or at least a reminder that it's almost halfway done.

"We've already got a year," he said.

gfilosa@keysnews.com

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