Front Street flooding project OK’d



Residents living along the Front Street waterfront corridor need to get ready. The bulldozers are coming.

The last step in a project that will dig up the roads in the harbor area along Front Street and cutting through Mallory Square was finalized at its March 4 meeting when the Key West City Commission voted to accept a state grant of almost $2.5 million to install a new storm water drainage system.

Beginning this summer after the busy tourist season winds down, workers will dig up an existing 12-inch drainage pipe that goes under Mallory Square into the harbor and replace it with a 24-inch pipe that will allow flood waters in the Whitehead-Front-Simonton street areas to empty more quickly. Currently, the area can flood during heavy rainstorms.

“When we get a four-inch rainfall during a high tide situation, we’re going to get flooding down there,” said Bob Vitas, Key West city manager.

Contractors will also install a new 24-inch drainage outfall pipe underneath Front Street, beginning at the north end of Whitehead Street and ending at Exchange Street. Five other locations in the area are slated to receive new gravity wells and existing storm inlets along Duval Street will be replaced with larger inlets so that water will drain off the street quicker.

A new outfall will also be constructed at the existing storm water pump station at the north end of Simonton Street. A new elevated generator will also be built there so that the pump station can remain operational during a power outage. That outfall will be activated during severe storms when area structures are under threat of flooding, according to the project plan.

Construction will take an estimated 290 days to complete, a dismaying fact to residents already tired of the almost three-year road and drainage construction project along North Roosevelt Boulevard. While the worse of the new construction will take place during the slower summer and fall seasons, it will still close parts of some streets. Project managers have promised to keep affected residents and business owners informed via meetings and email at the beginning of each project segment.

“Progress comes at a cost,” Vitas said. “We’re not doing this to make people unhappy. We’re doing this to protect people’s property.” Vitas also said the project will be done in phases so that entire streets will not have to be closed.

“It will significantly increase our ability to recover from torrential rains,” said Jay Gewin, Key West Utilities Manager, in a letter to Vitas.

The total project cost including the initial design phase is approximately $4.2 million. Forty percent of that is city funded.

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