AVON PARK – Since fall 2013, it has been stop-and-go for motorists heading north on U.S. 27, but within a month, it should be a bit more free-flowing on the main transportation corridor from Sebring to Avon Park.
For the past five to six months, Duke Energy and its subcontractors have been replacing wood power poles on the east side of U.S. 27. The 4.8-mile project is scheduled to be completed by the end of May, with some minor adjustments running through the beginning of June, said Sterling Ivey, senior communications specialist at Duke Energy Corp.
The maintenance permit project goes north from Bramblewood Road in Sebring to Martin Road in Avon Park. So far, the roadwork undertaking has required lane closures, usually the far right lane heading north, leaving two lanes open.
Since the project started, it has caused delays of no more than five minutes, mostly around the entrance to South Florida Community College at College Drive-Sachsenmaier Road.
Wednesday, crews from Chattanooga, Tenn.- based Service Electric Co. worked pulling cable for over 30, new 100-foot, aluminum electrical transmission poles. Jim Bowen, vice-president of Service Electric’s Leesburg office, said his eight-man crew has been working since February on the project and expects to be done by the end of May. He said his company has also been responsible for pouring pole foundations, setting them and installing electrical components.
“The goal for us is to get it done as safely as possible and we have a schedule to maintain. It has all been on schedule,” he said.
The overall project is roughly nine miles from Bramblewood to Martin roada. Robin Stublen, communications specialist in Bartow’s Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District One office, said the work is a “permitted utility project. He said Duke Energy provides all maintenance of traffic and the only FDOT involvement has been in the inspection of maintenance of traffic and posting to the RoadWatch website, which gives traffic and road conditions nationwide.
“Motorists should use caution and watch for changes in the traffic pattern,” he said.
Since the project began, the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office North District Office in Avon Park has been monitoring traffic flow, speeding and driving in the construction zones. Over the past months, sheriff’s office Capt. Jeff Barfield said he can only recall one crash in the area near the college. He said since the highway is three lanes in each direction, there also hasn’t been any significant back-ups or traffic flow impacts.
“It’s been flowing well. I haven’t seen any significant increase in traffic problems as a result of construction in those areas,” he said.
Deborah Latter, director, community relations and marketing for South Florida Community College, said travel from her home off Hammock Road for work hasn’t been a problem since the work on the highway began.
She said there have been times she had to be slightly re-routed or wait during lane closures and will be glad to see the work completed, but overall, it hasn’t been much of a nuisance.
“You just plan for it (traffic conditions), but it hasn’t really affected me and I haven’t heard of my co-workers having problems either,” she said.
Ivey said Duke Energy wouldn’t disclose the cost of the project.