Friday, October 11, 2013

Boulevard Construction, The Never Ending Story

There is much excitement in Key West at the prospect of major changes on North Roosevelt Boulevard, principally the plan to start two way traffic on the Boulevard on the morning of the 12th, except now it is postponed till the morning of October 16. Deadlines are not the contractor's strength. Businesses have been pleading for the change saying their sales have dropped by orders of magnitude since the Boulevard was torn up and made one way last year. I got stuck in it this morning on my way back to work from my flu shot.
The change may improve sales but there is a certain amount of trepidation that drivers will be confused and wreck, rain may flood the street enough to close one direction of travel and back ups will extend forever as cars try to cross the opposing direction of travel to go shopping. This is in the future when the change is made but locals are already feeling the effect of the planned changes.
At the moment, after months of inactivity the contractors have burst into life, paving smoothing and doing all those construction jobs day and night that if embraced from the start would have seen the entire $40 million job completed by now. And in order to accommodate the activity surrounding the plan to open essentially three lanes (one each way and a turn lane, maybe) by Wednesday, inbound traffic is reduced to one lane only.
The back up is monumental. Traffic is monitored at each intersection by blue flashing lights and a police officer so the flow is orderly but it is so slow it feels like rush hour on the mainland. Will two way traffic improve this or will it choke in both directions? About the time the Federal Government defaults on its debt we should know the answer to that....
It's like a funeral procession, eight miles an hour with lengthy pauses at traffic lights. The former speedway inbound on two lanes is long gone and the complaints in the paper about epic speeding should also disappear, likely to be replaced by epic whinging about the delays.
The construction has been necessary for a long time. The crown of the boulevard is too high and the road has been subject to inundations with rain or high tides or a combination thereof. Supposedly that's been taken care of by excruciatingly slow work on improving the storm drains. The road surface was quite torn up so now we should get a median with cut outs for turning and also a new traffic light at Searstown just to slow down the flow a little bit more. One day, after I'm dead most likely, Key West will discover intelligent traffic lights that respond swiftly to the weight of traffic approaching the light.
The prospect of the incoming flood of thousands of people for Fantasy Fest in two weeks doesn't make this mess any the more palatable. I avoid it as much as possible preferring the slower and more scenic route of South Roosevelt, along Smathers Beach. Hence the drop off is sales I suppose along this monumental scene of trench warfare. Among all the orange barrels there is one inbound lane and one brave cyclist figuring out the cycle path and pedestrian "sidewalk" through the construction. Everything else is closed to traffic.
One more year of this? Really?

PS Two way traffic was initiated on the morning of  Saturday the Eleventh and though traffic does have some bottlenecks a week later it seems to be working okay. Intense work on the construction site has slithered back to a more laid back pace so nothing will be completed quickly.

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