Gulf Street plans call for $3 million restoration

A $3 million pavement and restoration project planned for Gulf Street will be the subject of a public information meeting  Thursday, Feb. 8.

The project involves milling and repaving Gulf Street and part of Cherry Street: From Cherry Street where it intersects with Sunnyside Court to Gulf Street, and then Gulf Street from the Cherry Street intersection to the Gulf Pond Bridge at Gulf Beach.

Plans call for widening the road in some narrow areas, according to City Engineer Gregory Pidluski, most notably at the curve near the Gulf Pond Bridge. That area may be widened by up to four feet to improve the traffic flow.

There is some realignment of the road planned, but Mayor Ben Blake said there won’t be much change because there really isn’t a lot of room to work with.

“There are no drastic shifts,” Blake said.

Some additional sidewalks are planned along the busy roadway. Blake said school officials have asked that the area be more walkable for students, and that’s part of the reason for additional walkways.

Only existing sidewalks in need of replacement and those that need to be handicap accessible will be replaced, Blake said. New curbing will be installed along much of the roadway.

What city officials are calling an optional part of the plan calls for building an elevated boardwalk at the curve approaching Gulf Beach. The boardwalk would be about 140 feet long and run alongside Gulf Pond, connecting to the sidewalk at either end. The boardwalk would provide added safety, creating more space between the roadway and pedestrians, and offer a scenic overview of the pond, Pidluski said.

The boardwalk is expected to be built of wood or pre-cast concrete. At this point it is an “optional” part of the plan because it may put the project over budget, and the city is still waiting on approval from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). Pidluski said if there isn’t enough grant funding, city officials may try to find alternate funding for the boardwalk. The mayor agreed, saying the city may pursue that part of the project at a later point but definitely wants to see it built.

The Gulf Street project, which is expected to be paid through the state’s Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program (LOTCIP), is being done for safety, including pedestrian safety, and aesthetic reasons.

“The road is pretty beat up,” Pidluski said.

There are trees that will have to be removed, but Blake said the goal is to remove as few trees as possible and keep Gulf Street “tree-lined.”

Pidluski expects the project will take three months start to finish, and with no alternate routes really available, the plan will be to impact traffic as little as possible by keeping one lane of traffic open during the day.

Of course, because the funding is coming from the state, there is question about when and if the money will be released.

If the state money does not come through, the city will look for alternate funding, Pidluski said, but he added that would require starting much of the planning process over.

Blake said state transportation dollars are up in the air, but the city will push for the funding and hope to start the Gulf Street project in the spring.

“My opinion is that the projects that are ready to go should be funded, so we will still advocate for the funds,” Blake said. “We’ve done what we had to do, getting design plans and permits.”

The project is about two years in the planning, the last eight months in earnest.

“It’s part of the walkable city initiative to some degree,” Blake said, adding that people walk and bike the area, and it needs to be more bike and pedestrian friendly.

Paving Gulf Street, which has been patched a number of times over the years, will increase safety for motorists, he added.

The project information meeting will take place Thursday in Conference Room A, on the second floor of the Parsons Government Center, starting at 6 p.m.

Residents, business owners, commuters, and other interested individuals are welcome.