You Paid For It: Tampa canal project delayed and over budget

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) —The Watrous Canal renovation in the Westshore area of South Tampa is part of a citywide effort to prevent the kind of massive flooding that put many Tampa neighborhoods underwater during torrential tropical storm downpours two years ago.

But, that project is now eight months behind schedule, 50 percent over budget and driving neighbors nutty with all of the closed roadways and neighborhood entrances, construction noise and heavy equipment digging right behind their homes.

“We never had trouble before, so when they started making the mess, it seemed stupid to us,” said 95-year-old Barbara Davidson.

Davidson insists she’s lived in her home next to the Watrous Canal since 1961 and never had a flood, until construction work blocked the canal last summer during a heavy rain event.

“We woke up in the morning had had about two inches of water all through the house,” Davidson said. “We were in a motel for two months.”

Tampa Public Works and Utility Services Administrator Brad Baird cites a number of reasons why the Watrous project is running behind schedule and over budget. There were soil issues, too much clay that had to be replaced with sand, and a lot of design changes involving the seawall and other construction features in the limited access canal.

“We did have about 25 to 30 additions to the project that also contributed to the delay,” Baird said. According to Baird, change orders added $1.5 million to the $3.2 million project.

There were also problems with a construction subcontractor, although it’s not clear whether that was the reason for Davidson’s flood last summer.

”We had to remove a subcontractor that was not performing on the contract,” Baird said.

Several neighbors have expressed growing frustration over the Watrous project to 8 On Your Side. Baird insists it will be done by April, even though one of the private contractor supervisors on the job suggested that June is a safer bet.

However long it takes, it can’t happen soon enough for Davidson, who has paid for the project with her taxes, time and all the aggravation that follows a flooded home.

“True,” said Davidson. “I’ve paid in more ways than one.”

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