Saturday, September 22, 2018
Transportation

New connection for Pasco to Tampa remains elusive

WESLEY CHAPEL — George Neuendorf brought a prop.

At 74, he looked more like a student carrying a tri-fold poster board suitable for a science project than a homeowner worried about transportation. Unfolding the display, Neuendorf revealed 15 color snapshots of potholes and crumbling asphalt on Mansfield Boulevard.

"This is just from normal traffic,'' Neuendorf said. "How are you going maintain it if they open it up to more traffic? They can't maintain it now. That's what gets me.''

Neuendorf, of Emmets Court in the Meadow Pointe 2 development, joined 130 other people last week for an informational meeting on a proposed connection between Mansfield Boulevard in Wesley Chapel and Kinnan Street in the New Tampa area of the city of Tampa.

Many Pasco County residents shared Neuendorf's disdain for the connection, citing worries about increased traffic, safety, cost and few tangible benefits. Contrarily, homeowners in K-Bar Ranch in Tampa advocated for linking the two roads at the county line to provide a north-south alternative to Bruce B. Downs Boulevard that would cut drive times, enhance public safety and benefit businesses on both sides of the county.

"The safety issues are the exact same on Kinnan,'' said Melinda Morales who lives in K-Bar Ranch. "But local government has the duty and obligation to its citizens to provide infrastructure. And, I patronize Pasco County businesses, and that they should care about.''

The informational meeting at Pasco-Hernando State College was the kickoff to a Pasco County study on the Mansfield-Kinnan connection, as well as proposals to tie Meadow Point Boulevard to K-Bar Ranch Boulevard, and to potentially extend the planned Wyndfield Boulevard into Hillsborough County, where it could link to both K-Bar Ranch and Morris Bridge Road.

Without another connection, motorists must use Interstate 75, Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, Morris Bridge Road outside Zephyrhills or Livingston Avenue in Lutz to traverse the two counties.

Kinnan, a two-lane divided street, serves the K-Bar Ranch, Pebble Creek and Live Oak Preserve. Mansfield is the main route through the Meadow Pointe development in Pasco. Both roads serve public schools. Only a few paces of unfinished asphalt separate the two dead-end roads, but to get from one side to the other involves 11 miles of driving along five roads.

It has been blocked since the northern portion of Kinnan opened in 2007, when Pasco officials, citing parochial concerns about its residential road network, balked at a connection. Four years ago, Pasco offered a deal, asking either Tampa or K-Bar Ranch to pay for installing stop lights or traffic circles if the connection brought significantly more traffic into Meadow Pointe. The proposal, carrying an expense estimated as high as $500,000, went nowhere.

Tampa City Council member Luis Viera said his constituents express frustration over the stalemate.

"There is a real sense of urgency on this,'' said Viera. "The K-Bar transportation options are limited. They see it as government at its worst.''

Pasco Commissioner Mike Moore, who asked for the new study and was dismayed when neither the city of Tampa nor the Hillsborough MPO would share the cost, said his emails from Pasco residents show about 70 to 80 percent opposing the connection.

Most of the opposition is centered in the Meadow Point 2 development. There are residents in the original Meadow Point, a 1,458-home community immediately east of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, who are in support.

"With all the development that's taken place and is still taking place, we need all these roads open,'' said Dennis Smith, a board member of the Meadow Pointe 1 Community Development District. "It's gone on for too long.''

The study of the proposed connections is expected to take up to seven months to complete.

   
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