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Cross Creek work stalled

NEW TAMPA — A year ago, city officials celebrated their speedy widening of Cross Creek Boulevard's western half, and projected that the eastern half could be widened before 2011.

Now the outlook is more pessimistic.

Along with the receipt of $1.4-million federal dollars for the widening, the city acquired regulations that are contributing to a delay of the opening date as much as 2 1/2 years, or into 2013, said Jean Dorzback, Tampa's chief transportation planner.

"Any time it's federal funding, there's a lot of hurdles to overcome," Dorzback said.

The biggest, perhaps, is called a "Project Development and Engineering" study, which involves a year or more of consultants studying what's needed and what impact it will have.

A year ago, officials hoped to obtain permission to begin designing the work while the PD&E was under way. But federal regulators blocked that, adding nearly 1 1/2 years to the schedule, Dorzback said.

City Councilman Joseph Caetano, who lives in New Tampa, has repeatedly charged that the city spends too much time studying projects instead of building them. He wasn't pleased to hear the Cross Creek news.

"I think we've done enough studying," Caetano said. "We've got to put the money on the table, and the federal government's got to put the money on the table, and quit the B.S."

All this is in contrast with the widening of western Cross Creek, which seemed as close to instant gratification as road projects get.

In 2005, Mayor Pam Iorio conducted her first annual town hall meeting in New Tampa and heard a raft of complaints about the road's congestion. A Catholic priest, whose church is on Cross Creek, quipped to the mayor, "I even hate to go to church in the morning."

"That takes the cake," Iorio responded.

At the time, the widening lacked full funding. But it was already designed, without a PD&E. A chastened Iorio rallied her staff to juggle funding and put the job out to bid. Last spring, only two years later, the road opened. Iorio's zeal had shaved a year off the timetable.

Her New Tampa town hall meeting this year is set for tonight.

Compared to Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and Interstate 75, Cross Creek is the third busiest traffic artery in New Tampa, which otherwise is a honeycomb of master-planned residential streets.

Cross Creek's western end, connecting to Bruce B. Downs, is the busier stretch. The eastern end is less crowded. But it connects to Morris Bridge Road, which is becoming a development hot spot.

"I've only been here two years," said Barbara Adams, who lives nearby in Heritage Isles. "I have to tell you it's worse than New York. … I plan all my appointments to avoid rush hour."

Dorzback said the widening could cost as much as $20-million.

Several years ago, the city asked then-Congressman Michael Bilirakis of Palm Harbor for help. He and Tampa's Jim Davis obtained the $1.4-million in 2006, which mandated a PD&E.

For updates about Cross Creek Boulevard and more news and announcements from New Tampa, read Bruce B. Blog at www.blogs.tampabay.com/newtampa/.

Cross Creek work stalled 03/18/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:43am]
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