CLERMONT — The most expensive road construction project in the history of the Lake County Department of Public Works is finishing up this week as motorists began using the $13.1-million South Clermont Connector, now referred to as Hammock Ridge Road.
"I think the main thing with this road is it will take the traffic off two scenic highways [Lake Louisa Road and Lakeshore Drive]," said Jim Stivender, Director of the Department of Public Works. "Here is our largest project ever that is on budget, on schedule and even opening a bit early. The contractor stayed focused on the job and everything went smooth."
The 2.5-mile, four-lane roadway is expected to be a valuable commuter link between Lakeshore Drive and Citrus Tower Boulevard. The project includes bike lanes, curbs, gutters, turning lanes and grassy medians. The connection on Lakeshore Drive is just west of the Lake Louisa Road intersection, near Lake Minnehaha. The tie into Citrus Tower Boulevard is just east of U.S. Highway 27.
The contractor for the project, DeWitt Excavating of Orlando, began the project in April 2006 and was scheduled to complete the job by Oct. 1, 2007. Since the project was substantially completed on Monday, except for paving on one westbound lane near the intersection of Lakeshore Drive, the barricades were removed and some motorists immediately began taking advantage of the new roadway.
The connector will help free commuter traffic from Lakeshore Drive and Lake Louisa Road, which are averaging 12,200 and 5,400 cars a day, respectively.
"My hope is it will change the entire traffic pattern in this part of the County where we had little country roads that were getting burdened with traffic that they were never designed for," Stivender added.