PARRISH — Residents and business owners have been dealing with the road construction through their little town since September.
And it will not be until this fall before all the orange barrels and heavy construction equipment disappears.
But when they do, the 1.2-mile stretch of two-lane road from C.R. 675 to Moccasin Wallow Road will be transformed into a four-lane divided highway with left-turn medians, sidewalks and lighting. New drainage work also was part of the project.
The $6.9 million project has been in the works for many years because of all the future development in the area.
“We plan projects in five-year increments,” said Robin Stublen, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Transportation. “These improvements were probably safety related.
“As we move forward with projects, we determine a need,” Stublen said, explaining the planning process. “There was a need in that section of roadway.”
Hiedi Brown, owner of Brown’s Grove Parrish Farm Market & Country Store at 12255 U.S. 301 N., agreed the improvements will make it easier to travel along U.S. 301, although it may bring more development to the Parrish area.
“It will help my business,” Brown said.
But since the construction began last year, business has been down for the country market that specializes in fresh-picked citrus and vegetables.
“The road construction has affected our business big time,” Brown said. “Sales [were] down at least a third in January.”
Brown had to lay off some employees and was spending more time at the checkout counter herself.
The biggest problem was all the orange construction barrels lining the roadway in front of their store.
“The customers don’t know where to turn in,” she said.
“(The workers) left a space for the entrance opening (between the barrels), but it’s confusing,” she said.
They have seen business grow every year, except this year, according to Brown
“But I feel confident sales will improve when the construction is done,” she said.
It was a different story on the north end of the construction zone.
“Construction hasn’t gotten to this side of the road yet,” said Jimmy Parks, manager of Parrish General Store, 12320 U.S. 301 N., “so it hasn’t had too much effect on business.
“And we have a couple of ways to enter the parking lot,” Parks said. “Even from the back road.”
Parks saw the improvements as a potential catalyst for growth in the area.
“It will give more opportunities for new construction (of homes),” he said, “along with the new Fort Hamer Bridge.
“All the people south of the Manatee River will be able to get here easier,” Parks said.
The Fort Hamer Bridge crosses the Manatee River from the Upper Manatee River Road on the south to Fort Hamer Road on the north.
With about 25 percent finished, the bridge was expected to be completed in spring 2017.
Another thing the widening of U.S. 301 will bring, Parks said, was cars and trucks traveling at high speeds.
“They could probably write tickets all day long,” he said.