PARRISH -- Residents and business owners in Parrish are looking past the orange-and-white barrels and the heavy earth-moving machinery that have turned the northern half of their village into a construction zone.
Teresa Giles of P.J.�s Sandwich Shop knows that when the $6.9 million project to four-lane U.S. 301 is completed in the fall of 2016, she will have better traffic flow and for the first time, street lights and sidewalks. She can then begin making plans for improving her eatery.
�They have been real good about taking care of us,� Giles said of Florida Department of Transportation contractor Russell Engineering Inc.
Russell Engineering started four-laning the 1.2 miles between County Road 675 and Moccasin Wallow Road in September. When the project is done, all of U.S. 301 from Moccassin Wallow Road to Bradenton will be four-laned.
�I am real excited because once they get the sidewalks done, I can begin to do the things I want to do,� Giles said. �I am looking forward to the street lights going in, too. You will be able to feel a whole lot safer when you walk at night.�
Khadiga Lipi of Parrish Supermarket, 12320 U.S. 301 N., also welcomes the improvements.
�It will make it easier for customers to come inside. We want to improve our parking lot, too,� Lipi said.
Russell Engineering had excavated a trench along the east side of the highway Wednesday outside David Cannon Well Drilling, 12235 U.S. 301, making it one of the busiest portions of the road widening project. Workers could be seen in the trench, needed to improve drainage, with their white helmets just above ground level.
Despite the maze of barrels and buzz of construction activity, Michael Himmel of David Cannon Well Drilling said there have been no problems.
�It�s been a little hard getting the big rigs in an out, but that comes with it,� Himmel said of the construction. �The construction company has been pretty nice.�
The improvements to U.S. 301 will include a median, and is being designed to accommodate casements that will allow sewer lines to run under the highway.
Lauren Hatchell, spokeswoman for the project, said traffic has flowed smoothly through Parrish despite the construction.
�I drive that route every single day and have seen no problems with traffic flow,� she said.
Teresa Giles would agree. She has just one complaint: �People need to slow themselves down. They are just a little crazy going through the construction zone.�
The four-laning of U.S. 301 in Parrish is expected to be completed just a few months ahead of the opening of the Fort Hamer Bridge in early 2017.
The improvements come none too soon as an estimated 23,000 homes are expected to be added to Parrish and the North River area in the not-too-distant future.
Also planned is a traffic signal at the intersection of the Fort Hamer Road and U.S. 301.
A contract to install the traffic signal has been awarded and the mast arm is now being manufactured, said Ron Schulhofer, Manatee County public works director.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter@jajones1.