Last week, FDOT held an open house in Plant City to review the progress of the long-awaited Sam Allen Road Construction Project.
Local residents popped into the Bruton Memorial Library on Oct. 3 to take part in an open house for the Sam Allen Road Construction Project that has been underway for approximately one year.
At the open house, Florida Department of Transportation team members from every branch of the project were on site to answer questions and walk people through the timeline of the project.
Sam Allen Road is being widened and reconstructed from west of SR 39A (Paul Buchman Highway) to east of Park Road. The improvements will change the road from the existing two lanes to a four-lane divided roadway with a raised median, sidewalks, bicycle lanes, off-site ponds and underground drainage.
The open house ran from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and had a steady stream of attendees. John McShaffrey, community outreach manager, said they never know how many people will turn out but, with this particular project, they expected to see at least a decent attendance.
What set this open house apart from so many of the others FDOT holds was that it was held after the start of the project. Usually, FDOT comes in to let people know what to expect first. This time around, homeowners in the area and commuting residents could actually see the work in progress and thus had many questions about the nature of the work.
“A lot of these people have lived here a long time and are glad to finally see some improvements to this road,” McShaffrey said. “Usually with these types of projects, there’s not much objection. It’s been talked about for so long and people have just been waiting for it to finally start. Now they’re seeing some of the clearing and the progress and most of their questions are about the specifics of what we are doing. So they come in and look around and ask questions and we’re able to show them on a map exactly where this storm water pond is going and precisely how the road is being aligned. Hopefully everyone leaves with all of their questions answered.”
Once the project is completed, it will take some of the final steps of the decades-old plan to circle the heart of Plant City in a four-lane loop. Sam Allen Road is owned by Hillsborough County, not the city, but FDOT has worked with the county, the City of Plant City and CSX to ensure it is closely coordinated.
The need for an expansion of the road is long overdue and falls in line with the estimated road usage along the area over the next several years. FDOT predicted Sam Allen Road would have approximately 14,700 cars on its roadway by 2020 and about 27,700 cars by 2036.
The estimated completion date for the project is the summer of 2021 and, as a whole, the project will cost $23.2 million to bring to life, according to FDOT. Initial work began in November of 2018 on the two-mile stretch of roadway.
Right now, the largest inconvenience from the project is the closing of the Buchman Highway and Sam Allen Road intersection. On the night of Sept. 15, crews officially shut down the intersection and began work.
They are expected to continue to keep it shut down until late November.
To streamline the process, CSX is coming in to replace the railroad tracks during the closing. They’ll also add new crossing gates and other necessary improvements to the area.
Buchman Highway (SR 39A) through-traffic is currently being detoured to Alexander Street (SR 39), using Monroe and Franklin streets. Sam Allen Road (CR 580) through-traffic is being detoured via Alexander Street (SR 39), Franklin and Monroe streets, Buchman Highway (SR 39A), N. Frontage Road and Park Road.
There are several detour signs in place to guide commuters through the area and McShaffrey said FDOT is aware of the inconvenience having such a long shutdown is causing.
He said commuters should expect heavier than normal traffic during the closure, but added that most of the local residents he’s spoken to have accepted the change.
“The biggest impact for sure is that particular intersection shutdown,” McShaffrey said. “Someone today said they go to church just down the road and because of the closed intersection they have to go all the way around to drive half a mile down the road. But they also said they understand this is necessary. It’s not a problem, it’s an inconvenience. That seems to be the general take on the matter. I think when they understand why we’re doing it and why we have to do it that way. We hope to have it reopened by Thanksgiving.”
There are also lane closures on Sam Allen Road from east of Paul Buchman Highway to Park Road from Oct. 7-12. Flagging operations are in place to ease traffic.
If you were unable to attend the meeting but would like information about the project, email the department at firstname.lastname@example.org.