By Tony Judnich
SUNTREE - A repetitive pounding sound off to the west greeted about 70 people who braved chilly winds April 7 at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Pineda Causeway Extension.
The crowd gathered near the entrance to the Brisbane at Suntree subdivision - west of Wickham Road - and at the point where land will be cleared for the four-lane extension. It will run about two miles west to Interstate 95 and could be completed in 1 1/2 to two years, said District 4 Brevard County Commissioner Mary Bolin, of Satellite Beach.
The pounding sound came from pilings being installed for the extension's overpass, which will cross the future six-lane I-95. Officials say the overpass, as well as an interchange connecting the extension to the interstate, could be completed sometime next year.
Once the extension is completed, drivers will have a new route between the interstate and the beachside State Road A1A, with busy Wickham Road along the way.
West of I-95, the extension eventually could connect with the proposed north-south St. Johns Heritage Parkway.
Mrs. Bolin compared the long-awaited extension project to baking a cake, saying project funding and "ingredients" had to be collected before they could be mixed together and "put in the oven."
"Thank God, I'm the one who gets to pull it out of the oven," joked Mrs. Bolin. "Let's give a big applause on this production being started."
Halifax Paving of Ormond Beach is the contractor for the extension project and PBS & J of Orlando is the project's consultant. Officials at the groundbreaking ceremony said besides relieving traffic on other roads, the extension will serve as an additional emergency evacuation route.
Officials estimate that work on phase one of the extension project - involving the realigned, one-mile section of the Pineda Causeway between U.S. 1 and Wickham Road - will be completed by July.
The road construction cost for the Pineda realignment is a little more than $5 million and the road construction cost for the Pineda Causeway Extension is about $7.2 million, according to information from Harriet Raymond, special projects coordinator in the county Transportation Engineering Department.
She said the Florida Department of Transportation is contributing $4.5 million toward the cost of the realignment project and $7 million toward the cost of the extension project. County funds will be used to pay the remaining cost of about $700,000.
The FDOT is managing the extension overpass and I-95 interchange and widening projects.