TAMPA, Fla. -- If you're one of the thousands of people who makes Bayshore Boulevard part of your exercise routine, or if you just drive along there to get to or from work: pay attention. There's a major construction project that broke ground Tuesday, and city officials admit if you're not careful, it could get dangerous.
For the next two months, construction workers will be tearing up the sidewalk along Bayshore Boulevard, interrupting a lot of exercise routines in the process. It's not a very big section, but it's in a very popular part of the 4.5-mile sidewalk.
“Yeah, I can't imagine, because everybody does everything through here every day. So, probably a huge inconvenience,” said runner Savanah Haran.
“Me, being on the hand-cycle, it's just too difficult to get across to the other side. I'm gonna have to wait and take another route,” said Louis Molina.
The city says 23 of those big cement panels that line sidewalk between Delaware Avenue and South Boulevard have to be replaced immediately because water from the bay has gotten under the seawall, eroding the ground below the sidewalk.
In some spots, the gaps below the surface could cave in, say city officials, making it dangerous to ride or even run over.
That means walkers, runners, bikers, skaters - essentially everyone who uses the popular walkway between 9 am and 3 pm - will have to turn around or detour. And even after construction work ends for the day, the section will still be closed because it’s too dangerous to use until the project is completed.
The city’s detour plan takes people across Bayshore Boulevard traffic to the residential side of the road. But there are no traffic lights or crosswalks to help at those locations.
“Yeah, I was actually just trying to figure out whether I was going to risk this or not. It doesn't really seem like many people are slowing down through here,” said Austin Newman, concerned about his safety while crossing Bayshore.
City officials are they recognize of the construction project has created safety issues, but that they have no choice.
Tampa's transportation boss Jean Duncan says there are cracks in and voids below the concrete panels.
“Big deflections,” said Duncan, “They could fail even further and collapse.”
Duncan says they might add night hours to speed up the project, but the sidewalk would still have to be shut down during the day.
Even as Duncan talked about the issue just outside the project perimeter, so many people were ignoring the barricades she said they'd probably have to beef up the perimeter.
One more issue? Traffic.
The northbound right line will be closed in the affected area, forcing vehicles to use just one lane. That could create commuter frustration, adding to an already dangerous detour along one of Tampa's most popular hot spots.