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 Hurricane Idalia landed nary a drop on Key Biscayne, but its threat nevertheless impacted an already behind schedule road construction project at the island’s gateway intersection.

Village officials placed blame on County permitting snags and problems with uncharted underground utilities. One example? An unplotted water line that briefly flooded the site before County Water and Sewer workers were able to turn it off Aug. 9th. 

The contractor, Southeastern Engineering, had to submit its hurricane plan as Idalia threatened before making landfall in the Big Bend on Wednesday morning c. Now, the Village needs to get crews back to finish the work, the public works director said. 

None of this is music to residents’ ears.

Traffic delays due to the makeover frequently light up social media with resident complaints. Some post photos to document the number of workers – and whether they had shovels in hand or were taking a break.

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This is why Mayor Joe Rasco wanted an update on the project at Tuesday’s Council meeting. “Out in the community, there’s different interpretations of what’s happened. So let’s clear it up for the record.”

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The main goal of the project is to add a right turn lane from Crandon to Harbor. A Village traffic study found that 23 percent of cars entering Key Biscayne turn right onto Harbor. Crews also updated a left turn lane into Key Colony from Crandon.

The estimated cost is $987,000 – with about one-fourth picked up by the Village, according to a memorandum submitted for the Council meeting.

Yet, what appears to be a simple road construction project is hardly the case as it has necessitated moving old infrastructure – like the red light camera – and installing new drainage, resetting the grade of the road, and other headaches.

Complicating matters is while this is a Village project, Crandon is very much a County road. It was the County that voiced concerns during permitting, delaying it for a couple of months, said Public Works Director Cairo Cangas.

“They wanted the plans to be revised and the County did so for the streetlights, for the drainage for the MOT (maintenance of traffic), you name it,” Cangas said.

Then crews hit a snag when a conflict emerged between the drainage trunk line and a buried electric duct bank.

Cangas in an interview Wednesday said he hoped that the work will be completed by mid-September.

He defended the daytime lane closure that caused so much outrage among residents on social media and noted that sometimes crews must wait for inspections before moving on. Workers were not sitting around aggravating residents, Cangas said.

The permitting issue ground things to a halt just three days into construction, he told the Council. But he said Southeastern Engineering did what it could – such as installing the new left turn lane into Key Colony.

But the permitting issue meant crews were stalled for about two months.

Some council members tried to cast aspersions on the contractor and reflected some of the gripes made by the public on social media. “They can’t basically just walk off the project,” Council Member Brett Moss said.

Cangas responded, “If they do not have anything to work on, they will not mobilize – and they did not have anything to work on.”

JOHN PACENTI is the executive editor of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.

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JOHN PACENTI is the executive editor of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.