VALRICO — The Florida Department of Transportation outlined two road widening options for east Hillsborough County residents to consider when it shared results Tuesday evening from a State Road 60 study that aims to increase traffic capacity on a 12.3-mile stretch of road.
Armed with a video presentation and informational placards, FDOT representatives convened at the Strawberry Ridge Community Clubhouse to announce that by 2040 it expects traffic along this emergency evacuation route to increase by 54 percent to 71,000 vehicles per day from Valrico Road east to the Polk County line.
Despite not being budgeted in the current 5-year work program that runs from 2013-18, the project to increase from four to six lanes is listed as an unfunded need. One alternative is a $106.8 million plan that calls for complete reconstruction and centering of the roadway that avoids the need to acquire right of way land for the roadway. The alternative $92.7 million plan would add to the inside and outside of the existing pavement, but require additional right of way in certain areas.
Kirk Bogen, a DOT environmental project engineer, said these types of projects can take up to eight years to complete, allowing enough time for studies, design, land acquisitions and construction.
"We try to study projects before they are needed," he said.
Steve Kane, a designer working on the project, said if the costs are similar, the tendency is to avoid the extra step of having to purchase more land.
Local residents who attended were concerned with safety and quality of life.
Aaron and Doreatha Brown like that the plan calls for a bike lane and sidewalk near their Bealsville home that sits adjacent to SR 60, but worry that it is not well lit and not safe enough for the neighborhood children.
"My only concern is the speed limit is 65," Doreatha said. "We want a traffic light or to reduce the speed. It's just too fast."
"Our mailbox was hit," Aaron said, adding that "wheels come off trailers and end up in our yard."
Michele Noriega has lived for 14 years in the rural segment between Turkey Creek Road and the Polk County line where 22,000 vehicles a day passed by in 2012 as opposed to 46,000 along the Valrico stretch. Her main fear is potentially losing the natural tree line that buffers her east Hillsborough home from ST 60.
"It's inevitable," she said. "You can't stop progress."
A more formal public hearing where comments are added to the official record and a decision on how to move forward is tentatively scheduled for the summer. To find out more about the study or submit general comments before the March 28 deadline, visit tinyurl.com/p2c7av5.
Eric Vician can be reached at [email protected]