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Familiar beltway proposal leads to new battle for opponents

BRANDON — The bright green line stretched across the projection screen, from Manatee County into Hillsborough.

Planning consultants described it as a freight rail corridor.

But to many of the southeast Hillsborough residents at a community group meeting on March 27, it looked familiar.

"There it is," several audience members whispered as the slide went up.

"We've been fighting that route since the '80s," said Mariella Smith of Ruskin.

The line was one of four on a slide showing possible connections between Manatee and Hills­borough counties. It's one of several options representatives of the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority said they are considering.

Supporters have called it the beltway and the bypass. Opponents call it the "green swath of death."

Last year, they fought to have it removed from county transportation plans.

Last week, they prepared for battle again.

The authority, created by the Legislature last year, is in the early stages of creating a regional transportation plan.

On March 27, it presented the corridors it is considering to United Citizens Action Network, a South Hillsborough activist group.

"How do we balance what's good for the region with what you think is good for the Brandon area?" said John Bradley, a senior planner with Gannett Fleming who is consulting with TBARTA on the plan.

The new regional transportation agency has the power to build toll roads, although the officials in charge have been more focused on mass transit.

That includes commuter rail, rapid bus, light rail and designated highway lanes for certain uses, Bradley said.

Planners urged residents to submit comments to the authority, stressed that decisions about the corridors have not been made, and pledged to hold more public meetings.

After receiving more public feedback, Bradley said officials would narrow down their list of proposed corridors. They hope to finish their master plan by the end of this year.

Several people at the meeting said they were excited by the idea of more transit options, but others were not convinced.

"The entire thing will contribute to urban sprawl, so it's a big 'no' in my head," Dover resident Yvette Niemann said.

After the meeting, Balm resident Marcella O'Steen handed out copies of a newspaper article about the bypass.

"It's the same route. Somebody is very, very determined," she said. "But so are we."

Catherine E. Shoichet can be reached at cshoichet@sptimes.com or 661-2454.

. FAST FACTS

Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority

tbarta.com

United Citizens Action Network:

u-canhillsborough.net

Familiar beltway proposal leads to new battle for opponents 04/03/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 7, 2008 11:59am]

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