Thompson Nursery Road (CR 540A) Widening Project Could Be Completed in 5 to 7 Years
by James Coulter
Residents and commuters along Thompson Nursery Road (CR 540A) can expect a wider, more improved road much sooner than expected. Jay Jarvis, Director of Polk County Roads, explained that the road’s widening project is fully-funded enough to be completed in the next five to seven years.
“These projects are based on current estimates of cost, which are showing we are fully funded for the next five to seven years to get this project done,” he said.
At the Winter Haven City Commission meeting on Monday evening, Jarvis gave a presentation about the project for Thompson Nursery Road (CR 540A), which stretches from Winter Lake Road to West Lake Ruby Drive.
The widening project is divided into four segments:
Segment 1: SR 540 at US 17 to CR 655 (Rifle Range Road)
Segment 2: CR 655 (Rifle Range Road) to East of CSX R/W
Segment 3: East of CSX Railroad R/W to Eloise Loop Road
Segment 4: Eloise Loop Road to West Lake Ruby Drive
Both Segment 1 and 2 are being considered for alignment studies with acquirements for right of way, while Segment 3 is currently under construction with part of the right of way acquired. Segment 1 remains a high priority, Jarvis said.
“Our intent is to build that segment first,” he said. “We hope in the next year we will get construction on that segment for Rifle Range Road to Highway 17…The intent is that once that is built…we will go to construction on every other segment. We anticipate in the next three to four years to start that construction.”
A multi-use trail is being considered for Segment 2. However, such a new addition could prove to be an obstacle for the project, Jarvis said.
“The issue we have, relative to any time you have a plan, you do anything to change that plan, that opens up for more permitting issues and new requirements that may not have been in place and may delay the process,” he explained.
The project also includes the construction of two roundabouts. One roundabout is located along Eloise Loop Road. That roundabout is currently under construction and is expected to be completed by May 25, according to estimations by a contractor.
“We asked the contractor to give us a realistic time frame,” Jarvis said. “They told us 75 days. We told them we will close it for 90 days. They hope to be done May 25.”
Another roundabout, located at 653 Old Bartow/Lake Wales Road, has had its construction delayed due to construction added for utilities. However, according to his most recent correspondence, Jarvis expects to have it open by Easter.
One disgruntled audience member asked whether that would be Easter of this year or “when Jesus comes back.” To which, Jarvis merely assured the audience that construction would, indeed, be completed by this year.
Mayor Brad Dantzler was impressed by the project’s overall progress, especially with the overall funding behind it.
“That is a big deal,” he said. “Think about Dundee Road. We had that planned for 20 years, we finally had the money to do it. We already have the money for this, so this will go a whole lot quicker than when we normally do when we have money for a road. So that is the best we can do.”
As for delays and traffic, the mayor reassured the audience that their concerns were being heard: “We know how frustrated you all are. We get the e-mails. We are going to keep you in the loop…Please understand, a lot of us live out there, so we are part of it as well. These are county roads. The city is doing everything it can to work with the county…We are working as hard as we can and we appreciate your patience.”
Winter Haven Deputy City Manager T. Michael Stavres likewise attempted to reassure the audience that the project was being completed in a reasonable timeframe with the current funding behind it.
“I am a strong advocate for getting that done and moving it along,” he said. “There is funding for it. That is what we need…I wish I could snap my fingers and make it happen tomorrow, but that doesn’t work that way. When you make improvements, you have to shut things down.”