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Controversial sidewalk near Westchase gets county commissioners' approval

Bevin Maynard will soon be able to take her children on a bike ride without having to cross a major road to get on a sidewalk.

Maynard, who works as a bike safety coordinator, knows the risks of not having a safe place to ride.

"With all the recent fatalities, it doesn't make sense not to build (a sidewalk)," she said.

Hillsborough County commissioners agreed.

They unanimously voted Thursday to approve a controversial half-mile sidewalk along Nine Eagles Drive in front of Westchase's Bryant Elementary School.

Construction is expected to start in December.

The $286,000 sidewalk between Westwood Lakes Boulevard and Chase Grove Drive has been mired in controversy almost since residents asked for it for safety reasons.

Then parents learned that the sidewalk could make some kids ineligible for busing under the school district's guidelines.

Courtesy busing is offered to students who live within 2 miles of a school and face hazardous conditions to get there. Hazardous conditions include a lack of sidewalks or routes that would require students to cross a major road. Three courtesy buses serve 50 to 75 Bryant students at an annual cost of $22,000.

At a public meeting in July, Lisa Yost, general director for schools in northwest Hillsborough, assured 50 residents that there were no plans to reduce bus service as a result of the sidewalk. But she did not rule out the possibility of adjustments in the future.

Still, some parents and residents continued to fight the project.

Officials spent $72,000 of state money planning and designing the sidewalk, and the county would have had to reimburse the state if it wasn't built. The remaining money is coming from a federal grant.

But on Thursday, there were no opponents at the commission meeting.

Westwood Lakes resident Linda Bailes said later Thursday that she was disappointed to learn that the sidewalk would be built.

"I fear that because of how dangerous the road is, that kids or adults might be hurt. I just don't see it as a safe place," she said.

Jared Leone can be reached at (813) 226 3435 or jleone@sptimes.com.

Controversial sidewalk near Westchase gets county commissioners' approval 11/04/10 [Last modified: Friday, November 5, 2010 12:01am]
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