During the Brooksville City Council meeting on Oct. 16, Anna Geismer, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) construction project manager, provided an update on the progress of construction related to completing the Good Neighbor Trail Gap from West State Road 50/Cortez Boulevard to the Good Neighbor Trail. (This is part of the larger Coast to Coast bike trail connector project.)
The improvements under this contract consist of “base work, shared use path, drainage improvements, sidewalk, signalization, signing and pavement markings, lighting, and structures” on the Good Neighbor Trail in Hernando County. The project was begun on September 12, 2022, and is currently slated for completion in Summer/August 2024. The contract, designated E7N56; FPN:4372642, is estimated to come in at just under $20 million ($19,9750,000).
There were three areas of concern surrounding the development that Geismer went into greater detail on: South Main Street, South Broad Street at CSX, and the Westbound South Broad Street Detour.
The southbound lane of South Main Street is closed for construction due to the trail. There is no contractual limit on when to open the lane, so they could technically take as long as need be. However, the projected date of completion is mid-January 2024. After feedback from the city of Brooksville and citizens, the FDOT issued a notice to proceed (NTP) to the contractor, SEMA Construction, on the 16th to accelerate the work. This is not in their contract, as it is extra work. So, the department needs to pay them an additional amount to deliver the project sooner, by December 4th, in anticipation of the tree lighting and parade. The construction crew now works weekends and overtime. The southbound lane should be open by the 4th, but not necessarily the trail. The portion could be completed by then, but it depends on the subcontractor’s scheduling.
The second area of concern is the US 41 detour at South Broad Street at CSX, where the bridge is being erected over the railroad tracks. The approximate date of completion is projected for November or December 2023. Geismer informed the council that the department could likely lift the lane closures for 48 hours or “2-3 days” in these construction zones when the city has large-scale events like the tree lighting taking place.
The approximate anticipated lane closure and detour removal for the Westbound South Broad Street Detour is set for mid-January 2024. There is a detour in place that currently goes through Hale Avenue, but now that there is new management in the City of Brooksville, FDOT is planning to go back to the original plan they had wanted to enact. Instead, the new detour will send rerouted vehicles down Jefferson Street. This change should be going into effect “in the next two weeks” and help things to be “working smoother” according to Geismer.
“We have had up to 10,000 people come into downtown Brooksville on the tree lighting, which is a lot of people obviously coming into our small, little town,” Mayor Blake Bell explained in the hopes of reaching a compromise on the detours. “So, if we could lift that going into the tree lighting day, that would be awesome if it’s not already done because that was our main concern: just safety and having that many people funneled through with some of the traffic closed.”
After her presentation, Vice Mayor David Bailey also had a pair of questions he wished to clear up with Geismer: confusion surrounding the potential removal of a brick sidewalk in front of Panbanged Knit Shop and whether that building’s awning would need to be removed due to the construction. Geismer clarified that the brick sidewalk would need to be removed for rideability sake, but the accompanying brick crosswalk will be preserved. The awning may also stay, according to the construction project manager, as the crew will just work under it as they go.
After a request by Council Member Christa Tanner, an agreement was reached with Geismer that the construction crew would preserve the bricks and give them to the city for another project. The members at the meeting acknowledged the less-than-ideal nature of some of these plans and echoed the sentiment that none of them were on the board when the decisions for these plans were made in 2016.
Unforeseen complications such as inclement weather could push the timetables back on these projects, but this is what the FDOT is projecting to the best of its knowledge. The tree lighting is scheduled for Thursday, December 7th, and the parade is on the 9th. After the proximity of these two events was brought to Geismer’s attention by Council Member Tanner, Geismer told the council that the FDOT “will try our best to accommodate those” due to the importance of this pair of events for the city.