Some road projects on move, some stall

NEW TAMPA — Never has so much clout been gathered at the New Tampa Regional Library: Mayor Pam Iorio, Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan, plus three other commissioners from two counties, the county administrators from Pasco and Hillsborough, and the chiefs of the Expressway Authority and the Tampa Bay district of the state Department of Transportation.

When the dust settled after Monday morning's meeting, much had been revealed about local road projects:

Flyover should open late this summer

The flyover spanning Interstate 75 at Bruce B. Downs Boulevard is likely to open late this summer, months ahead of schedule. PCL Civil Constructors is aiming to finish by year's end, DOT spokesman John McShaffrey said.

"They've been pretty aggressive from the beginning," McShaffrey said.

PCL is eligible for up to $2-million in early-completion bonuses, he said. Its contract is for $42-million.

Bruce B. Downs,

eight lanes, next year

Hillsborough's eight-laning of Bruce B. Downs is scheduled to begin next year with the $104-million segment between Pebble Creek and Palm Springs Boulevard in Tampa Palms. Next, between 2011 and 2013, would be the $35-million segment between Pebble Creek and the Pasco County line.

Southern segment

of Downs is next No. 1

Hillsborough has hope, but no money, for widening the southern segment, estimated to cost another $100-million.

"I can assure you that's going to be the No. 1 priority of the county, to fund that road," said Hagan, who lived in New Tampa for 13 years and chairs a task force that last year earmarked $500-million in future sales taxes for local transportation projects.

But Hagan also warned that the $100-million could take years to assemble and will rely on some contributions from developers.

Expressway called 'not very feasible'

New Tampa's long-planned east-west expressway is proving too costly to build. Iorio heard a report from the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority, and said, "This east-west road is financially not very feasible as it stands right now."

The expressway would connect Bruce B. Downs to Interstate 275, skirting the northern neighborhoods of Tampa Palms. To protect Cypress Creek and other wetlands, 40 percent of the roadway would have to be elevated, said Joseph Waggoner, executive director of the Expressway Authority. The cost is estimated at $155-million.

Plenary Group, a private consortium chosen to build the road and recoup its costs through tolls, proposed a schedule in which a round trip on the 3-mile expressway would rise to $6 in the first decade of operations.

"The rates are not realistic," said Hillsborough County Commissioner Rose Ferlita. "We should say so if we can't do it. We just have to move on and quit giving people false hope."

Two people dissented.

"I hate to see it go down in flames like this," Hagan said.

William Martello, president of the Heritage Isles Homeowners Association, said his neighbors in the northern end of New Tampa need an alternative to Bruce B. Downs.

"I think it's imperative that somebody take responsibility for the east-west connector and build it," Martello said.

Expressway issues could hamper bridge

If the east-west road isn't built, that clouds the future of a $23-million bridge spanning I-75 at New Tampa Boulevard. The bridge was designed to accommodate the east-west road. But it also would connect West Meadows to the public parks and schools just across I-75.

Several Tampa Palms residents warned that the bridge might make Tampa Palms Boulevard into a bypass around Bruce B. Downs.

"Without the east-west connector, we'd like to see it dead," Warren Dixon said.

Millions could go to Cross Creek widening

Up to $20-million to build the bridge could be diverted instead to widen the eastern end of Cross Creek Boulevard. Construction is scheduled to start in 2011 and cost $19-million. Widening of the western half was finished a year ago.

"If the east-west road is not going to be built, then what do we do with the monies that were going to be spent building the bridge?" Iorio asked.

Kinnan Street to stay dead-end for now

Kinnan Street, the road that ends at a barricaded patch of weeds instead of connecting into Pasco County's Meadow Pointe community, will stay that way until State Road 56 is extended to Meadow Pointe Boulevard. Kinnan was designed to flow into Mansfield Boulevard, but both dead-end at the county line.

"When 56 opens in 18 months, we'll relook at that," Pasco County Administrator John Gallagher said Monday. But he said better opportunities for a north-south connector lay to the east, in K-Bar Ranch.

Hillsborough's administrator, Pat Bean, sat next to Gallagher.

"I told him at the beginning of the meeting," Bean said, "that I was going to go up there in the middle of the night and pave it myself."

Bill Coats can be reached at (813) 269-5309 or coats@sptimes.com.

Some road projects on move, some stall 05/08/08 [Last modified: Thursday, May 8, 2008 4:30am]

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