THE ISSUE: Road construction across the county.

OUR OPINION: Consider public impact of long-lasting projects.

Love bugs and orange construction barrels actually have something in common. They are both found across the county, and they are both universally detested.

Fortunately, cooler weather means love bugs will soon be gone until next year. Too bad the same cannot be said

for the orange barrels.

Whether it is for relatively new projects such as the Suncoast Parkway extension or for projects that have dragged on interminably such as widening U.S. 19, barrels are found across the county.

On the east side, there are various road projects in Inverness. In the center of the county there is the widening of County Road 491 and remaking the C.R. 491-State Road 44 intersection, and on the west side the U.S. 19 project and the often-delayed Halls River bridge.

While the one thing all of the projects share are the orange barrels, they are done under different contracts from different agencies. Some are state projects. Others are local government.

Presumably, each project has as a goal of making some road condition better, and the orange barrels and driver frustration they bring is temporary.

But the reality for many motorists is that the construction seems to drag on interminably, with detours, traffic jams and difficult driving conditions continuing, even when the project seems near completion.

We recognize that projects such as the C.R. 491 widening may be technically on schedule with the road scheduled to be open by the end of the year and all work scheduled to be complete by January 2020. But with the project almost completed and no work visibly underway, it seems reasonable to ask why the project can’t just be completed, the barrels removed and the road fully serviceable.

For sure, road contracts have to include the possibility of rain delays and other weather events, but it appears that contractors on some projects may simply move crews from one project to another rather than completing one and then moving to the next one. This has the net effect of keeping construction barrels up for longer than absolutely necessary to complete each project.

We encourage state and local agencies contracting for road projects to strongly consider the public impact of the project during construction and write contracts designed to keep the project moving and encouraging timely or ahead of schedule completion.

While this would not completely mitigate the public irritation of lengthy road projects, it would make the orange barrel season more like love bug season: irritating, but not lasting forever.

(1) comment

CitrusCo Citizen

Tell me again why 491 needed to be widened? I forgot. Or maybe nobody really knows. I sure miss that forest of those beautiful, huge, shady, old live oak trees draped in "swamp grass". It was always 15 degrees cooler when driving, walking or biking under the shade of their branches. Now they're gone forever and there is a new forest of orange barrels in their place. " Oh well, that's Progress", the BOCCC told us.

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