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Joe Henderson Columns

Henderson: Gornto Lake Road extension ahead of schedule

Published:   |   Updated: July 11, 2013 at 05:25 PM

BRANDON After a while you can become numb to almost anything.

Take the area around the Brandon mall, for instance. In peak times it can be the Bermuda Triangle of asphalt, where cars can be sucked in but have trouble getting out.

"What happened to Bob?"

"I don't know. The last thing he told me, he was headed to Sears."

The amount of traffic around there has always swamped any attempted remedy, so imagine my surprise the other day when heading east out of the mall. Off to the left, it looked like real progress was being made on the Gornto Lake Road extension project. I pictured dozens of cars turning there, easing congestion and cutting time for the homeward commute at least in half.

Was it too good to be true?

Apparently not. The final short stretch of a four-lane roadway connecting S.R. 60 south past Bloomingdale Avenue to U.S. 301 is on track for an early arrival.

"We are probably looking at a ribbon-cutting in late August or early September," project manager C.T. Chen said. "So far, so good."

That's about two months ahead of schedule, which should merit shouts of hosannah from drivers who measure progress in the number of feet they can navigate their cars before hitting the brakes.

"This will take a lot of the burden off around the mall," County Commissioner Al Higginbotham said, and man do we need that.

We are so used to seeing the roads torn up, dug up and generally messed up around here that a street without orange barrels seems oddly out of place. These projects cost more than just inconvenience though.

For instance, the stretch of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard that runs from Highview Road to Parsons Avenue in Seffner is about a mile. A $7.2 million widening project has been going on there for about 13 months, and to businesses along that stretch it must seem like work will never be done.

Yvette C. Hammett of the Tribune reported recently about the cost to businesses caught in the construction mess. Between the dust, noise and congestion, potential customers decide to look elsewhere for their goods. The manager of a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant said his business is down 15 percent, or about $500 a day.

Kris Carson of the Florida Department of Transportation said work should be finished in the fall - maybe October or early November. An ill-timed hurricane or a lot of rain could change that, so light a candle and keep a good thought.

Back at the mall, we live about 10 minutes from there on a normal day (whenever that is). Then there was the Friday afternoon about two weeks before Christmas last year, when it took my lovely wife about 90 minutes to get from the parking lot to our house.

I never thought a road project was worth getting too excited about, but I'll make an exception this time. Who knows? Maybe next year it will only take her 45 minutes.

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