Sunday, June 24, 2018
News Roundup

Bloomingdale area gridlock solutions in the works

Hillsborough County's new fiscal year arrives Oct. 1 with hope for traffic-jammed motorists on county roads.

Growing sales tax revenue and rising home values have generated increased property tax revenues available for projects to widen roads, add turn lanes and resurface pavement.

A new policy requires big project developers to help pay some of the cost of road improvements needed to handle the additional traffic.

The Bloomingdale area, embroiled over a proposed big box development, landed two of the biggest projects, both designed to increase the capacity of major roads that become hopelessly clogged daily.

The Bloomingdale Avenue intersections at Bell Shoals Road and Culbreath Road have been tagged for improvements.

Both intersections share the same problem: too many cars and too little asphalt, specifically, both lack enough left-turn lanes to keep vehicles from backing up into the through lanes, resulting in gridlock.

The county plans to add eastbound and westbound left-turn lanes at the Bloomingdale–Bell Shoals intersection at a cost of $4 million. A similar project at Bloomingdale and Culbreath will cost $1.5 million.

Commuters worry about getting to work on time and the long lines of traffic coming home, but merchants near the Bloomingdale-Bell Shoals intersection sometimes fret that traffic will scare away customers.

"A significant number of people say it's too hard to get in and out in rush-hour traffic,'' says Linda Dehring at Greg's Hallmark in Bloomingdale Square Plaza.

"But I think people time their visits."

At the Green Boutique, a locally owned retail shop in the Plaza Bella Shopping Center, owner Roz Creager says, "It's intimidating for people to make turns in heavy traffic."

Traffic congestion in Valrico and Bloomingdale became a big issue for residents fighting a proposed retail "big box'' development earlier this year.

County Commissioner Ken Hagan pushed for the county to dedicate all developer transportation mitigation funding from the project to improve traffic congestion around the site.

Last week, Hagan said he moved to dedicate the $1.5 million from big-box developers for the Bloomingdale- Culbreath Road intersection.

But motorists shouldn't start looking for bulldozers and asphalt in the next few weeks, said Michael Williams, the county's director of engineering and environmental services.

A few projects are under way, such as an extension of Telecom Parkway to Morris Bridge Road, which was started by the city of Temple Terrace.

But most projects, like the Bloomingdale-Culbreath Road intersection, must start from scratch with basic engineering and land acquisition.

"It could take a couple years,'' to start construction, Williams said.

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