CLEARWATER - North-South traffic through downtown Clearwater should get some relief courtesy of a piece of good news from the City; the Myrtle Avenue construction project, complete with new sidewalks, curb and gutter, stormwater inlets and traffic signal mast arms, has been finished.
The project included major infrastructure improvements along Myrtle Avenue from Lakeview Avenue to Fort Harrison Avenue. Improvements include replacing the deteriorated and undersized storm sewer system, replacement of sanitary sewer pipes and potable water lines. The storm sewer improvements will provide a higher flood protection level of service for the businesses and residents on Myrtle Avenue according to the City.
The construction on Myrtle Avenue has been more than an inconvenience to motorists traveling north and south through downtown. Not only was its traffic capacity limited by lane closures, but traffic was also constricted at the same time on downtown's other major north/south artery, Ft Harrison Avenue.
The reconstruction of Myrtle Avenue took about two years to complete. Originally planned for eighteen months, the six-month delay was caused by Progress Energy diverting some needed materials to hurricane-stricken areas last year.
The project cost over $16-million to construct, with financing coming from a variety of sources, most notably $12.5-million from Utility Bond Issues, $2-million from Utility project funds, and $1-million from the local option gas tax.
With two lanes of repaved roadway in each direction, Myrtle Avenue is now expected to carry the bulk of the north/south traffic through downtown. Paul Bertels, Clearwater's Traffic Operations Manager, expects 30% of today's Fort Harrison traffic will shift to Myrtle, reducing congestion and resulting in a more pedestrian-friendly environment in the heart of downtown.
But don't expect Myrtle to become a free-flowing highway. Its speed limit through downtown is 25mph, and the traffic signals at Court and Chestnut Streets will continue to give priority to east/west traffic according to Bertels.
At the north end of the road, a traffic signal will continue to give priority to Fort Harrison traffic via Fairmont Avenue until the Alternate 19 designation has been transferred to Myrtle Avenue. That act is expected sometime this summer, after the Florida Department of Transportation and the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials have inspected and accepted the roadway.
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