PINELLAS COUNTY, FL (WFLA) – After six months of commuting from her Tampa home to work on Ulmerton Road in Largo former New York resident Dina DeMaria was ready to blow her cork. “It is so horrible!!!,” she wrote to Eight on Your Side. “I can’t even begin to describe without using colorful, NY words.”
DeMaria asked us to find out why road widening construction that has torn up miles of Ulmerton since 2011 doesn’t seem to have any end in sight. “It’s just unbearable and horrific to drive every day,” wrote DeMaria.
So we asked the Florida DOT to do some explaining. It turns out the project was supposed to last just over three years and is now approaching four with the latest contract completion date set for January 24th. DOT spokeswoman Kris Carson attributes 82 days of delays due to unforeseen circumstances such as relocating utilities, another 160 days for bad weather and 54 additional delays due to holidays—although it’s not clear how those holidays didn’t figure into the original contract.
“I think it’s a bunch of lip service, DeMaria said. “I think the DOT is just telling you what you want to hear or what I want to hear to make you happy for right now.”
DeMaria insists that she seldom sees many people working on the project during her daily commutes. “Just put more bodies out here, get it moving a little bit faster,” Demaria said. “Where are the tax dollars going?”
Carson claims a lot of the work is done by night when traffic volume is at a minimum—in other words—when DiMaria can’t see it happening. Meanwhile, hundreds of orange barrels, rough uneven pavement, and ever-changing detours have become the hallmark of any drive down one of Pinellas County’s most heavily travelled east-west corridors.
“By the time I get to the office I need to take a few minutes to calm down,” said DeMaria. “I think somebody should be held accountable for this, it’s not progressing as quickly as it should be in my opinion.”
There’s no disputing that driving on Ulmerton can become a white-knuckle experience. On the way to our interview with DeMaria, we were almost hit by another car in the stop and go traffic and during our ride with DeMaria a jaywalker stepped in front of her car, something she insists happens with regularity due to the lack of crosswalks in the construction zone.
Carson has herd these kinds of complaints before but is trying to put the best face on all of it. “The traveling public should have seen significant changes over the last couple of months,”’ she wrote.
If all goes as planned the road widening work should reach completion in 2016, but Carson says don’t hold the DOT to the January 24th contract date. Carson claims that doesn’t include delays for inclement weather and, of course, the upcoming Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s holidays.
DeMaria hopes her cry for help will get someone’s attention. Maybe even the Governor will do something to speed up the process like he has on other pokey projects.
If nothing else, DeMaria would sure like to see the DOT spend some money on a road sign to give motorists like her just a little bit of hope that their motoring misery will soon be over. “I don’t see a sign anywhere that tells when the end is near for this project,” said DeMaria. “I want to know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel coming.” Maybe next year.