SW 2nd Avenue reopens to traffic

Roadwork continues on SW 2nd Avenue Wednesday, January 30, 2013. (Doug Finger/Staff Photographer)

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, February 2, 2013 at 7:09 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 2, 2013 at 7:09 p.m.

The barricades rerouting midtown traffic around work on decades-old underground pipes may inconvenience some drivers, but the upgrades will soon deliver greater efficiencies to some businesses in and around downtown.

GRU crews last week reopened Southwest Second Avenue from Seventh Terrace to 10th Street. They soon will begin work on Eighth Street, and later, Southwest First Avenue, said Russ Ingram, a GRU supervising utilities engineer.

“It did take us a little longer than we expected, but (Second Avenue) should stay open now,” he said, noting that the project has another two to three months to go.

Ingram said the Southwest Second Avenue portion cost about $100,000 — a sum GRU subsidized on the front end, but businesses that move into the district will repay via infrastructure assessment fees.

The crews have been tearing up road surfaces for more than a month to replace water and sewer pipes — some of which are 60 to 100 years old — and install new lines to carry reclaimed water and chilled water.

The reclaimed water, which Ingram said has been purified to drinking water standards, will be used for irrigation and as chilled water to provide efficient heating and cooling to new office spaces in the Innovation Square area.

It’s also more economical for customers, he said.

“It’s cheaper than potable water — drinking water. We charge a lot less for reclaimed water to encourage people to use it,” he said.

While developments in the Haile Plantation and Tower Road area already use reclaimed water, he said, it’s new for midtown and downtown.

“We’ve never had a reclaimed water pipe in downtown Gainesville,” Ingram said.

GRU spokeswoman Amelia Bell said the new infrastructure will better accommodate entrepreneurial- and technology-oriented businesses that will move into the area.

“It’s not the same footprint the hospital had,” she said, referring to the former Alachua General Hospital, which stood nearby for decades before it was demolished to make way for Innovation Square.

“The infrastructure needs are going to be different. So, when businesses move in, that will be in place for them.”

Despite the construction on an artery that many people use as an alternative to busy University Avenue, businesses along Southwest Second Avenue report no serious impacts.

They chalk it up to both traditional and new-era ways of keeping customers happy.

Michael Thomas of Scissors Hair Salon, sitting near the east end of the Second Avenue roadblock, said the salon has a base of longtime customers who were not discouraged by the temporary inconvenience.

“I think most of our clients have been coming here for, like, 20 years, and they know where it is already,” he said.

Abhi Lokesh, the CEO of Fracture, a company at 110 SW Sixth St. that specializes in photos printed on decorative glass, said the construction hasn’t affected his company either, but for a different reason.

“We are an e-commerce site, for the most part,” he said, adding that the company mainly buys and sells online.

The only impact of the project was employee frustration with altered routes to work. He said it did not snag shipping and receiving because UPS and FedEx routes don’t usually use Second Avenue.

Chip Skinner, a Regional Transit System spokesman, said three bus routes had to be altered to accommodate the construction. He said routes 1, 25 and 46 were detoured down Southwest Fourth Avenue, causing passengers to walk an additional two blocks.

But because construction connected to the Innovation Square area has been going on for a while, Skinner said, passengers were flexible about the route changes.

“It’s not something our patrons and our drivers are not accustomed to,” he said.

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