Traffic remains detoured through downtown neighborhoods as construction on the Canal Street Project mulls along, stymied not by recent patches of rain, rather by complications in securing a permit with the Florida Department of Transportation.
"Everything is basically done from Highway 90 south, with the exception of paving," said City Manager Brian Watkins. "We just got permit approval from FDOT to relocate the traffic signal."
FDOT issued a permit to make adjustments to the intersection of Highway 90 and Canal Street. The traffic signal will be relocated and a turn lane from Canal Street onto Highway 90 will be created, according to Watkins. Traffic along Highway 90 is not expected to be stifled much further while the intersection is modified. The contract specifically states the old light had to be working as the installation of the new traffic light was being installed.
Jerald Ward, Public Works Director for the City, estimates the project will take another two-to-four weeks to complete.
"They were looking for specific documents from the contractor that we could not get until the contract was signed with the contractor," Ward said. "We thought it would have been here a month ago, but it's taken twice that."
The City has been waiting on the permit so they could pave the street from one end to the other in one process.
Ward said the City saved $95,000 by recycling the original Canal Street concrete. When the road was ripped up in the initial demolition phase, it was trucked to a facility in Bagdad where it was crushed, resulting in a usable, recycled-concrete product.
The project began construction in May, creating some problems for local residents and commuters. Large trucks have been diverted to either Avalon Boulevard or Ward Basin as alternate routes. No one is accessing Interstate 10 via Canal St. during this period.
"Probably the biggest issue we've had is the increase of traffic with the bypass," Watkins said. "Hopefully, it'll be alleviated when we get the road open."
Residents attended City Council meetings to voice their complaints against the influx of traffic in the surrounding neighborhoods. One resident, Kim Stevens, was concerned with trucks cutting through the detour, tearing up her yard on Baldwin Street.
Another resident, Maria Ard, pleaded with the council to establish more of a police presence along Baldwin Street while the construction project continued.
The Canal Street Project is a $700,000 infrastructure project funded by a Community Development Block Grant through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The project features the addition of curbs; wider turn lanes; sidewalks; buried utilities; and complete resurfacing of the road itself.
Some portions of the original plan were deleted from the project to stay within budget, according to Watkins. Landscaping and lampposts were cut from the plans, trimming $103,000. They may be installed in the future if funding can be secured.