BRANDON — It's a mostly rural, two-lane road in a once-obscure corner of southeastern Hillsborough County that has evolved into a major connector between dense residential and commercial districts along Lumsden and Bloomingdale roads.
In the wake of increasing vehicular travel, Lithia Pinecrest Road has become the scene of more than 300 traffic accidents annually, some of them fatal, according to Suzy Motts, secretary of the Bloomingdale Homeowners Association.
"It's not just accidents. People are dying on Lithia Pinecrest," Motts told the Metropolitan Planning Organization, or MPO, board Tuesday. "We need to do something now to save lives."
The HOA represents more than 23,000 residents and 5,200 homes, the equivalent of a small- to medium-sized city and one of the largest residential communities in Hillsborough County.
The dozen HOA members attending the MPO meeting want the planning group to encourage Hillsborough County to budget an estimated $100 million to widen the roadway to four or possibly six lanes, particularly between Lumsden Road and Bloomingdale Avenue.
Four years ago, the HOA was outvoiced by other residents opposed to the road-widening project, and the MPO decided not to place the road widening on its "cost-feasible" project list.
Beth Alden, the MPO's executive director, told the board Tuesday that although a project to widen Lithia Pinecrest is part of the county's longer-range transportation plan, it does not have an identified source of funding.
"We can't change its standing in the plan without a funding source," she said.
She suggested, and the MPO board agreed, to refer the HOA's request to the MPO's policy committee for review. That process could take up to six months.
The MPO is not a funding source or a road construction agency, Alden stressed after the meeting. What it can do is work with the county to identify worthwhile projects and funding sources to make them viable.
Those sources range from local property and sales taxes to state and federal grants. Because Lithia Pinecrest is not a state road, it is not eligible for most state or federal transportation funds, Alden said.
A state matching grant program would require the county to come up with $50 million from local or other sources, money the county does not have.
When asked if any realistic funds now exist that could cover the cost of widening Lithia Pinecrest, Alden said, "No."
The conversation is not deterring the Bloomingdale homeowners. HOA president George May said he and his thousands of residents are determined to push the project forward.
Contact Sheila Mullane Estrada at [email protected]