Monday, May 21, 2018
Transportation

Weary drivers look forward to 2014 end of Boyette Road widening

RIVERVIEW — Kelley Smith is losing patience and worries her customers might go someplace else.

David Nicholson is sick of bumper-to-bumper traffic that results in a long commute.

Smith, Nicholson and many others are counting the days until the Boyette Road widening project is finally done.

Hillsborough County officials say the $56 million project is right on schedule and should be completed in about 18 months.

The county began widening the 4-mile stretch of Boyette Road between U.S. 301 and Bell Shoals Road from two to four lanes in 2005. The county split the project into three parts, the last of which is the 1 ½-mile section from McMullen Road to Bell Shoals.

County spokesman Steve Valdez said the project's target completion date is April 2014. He understands drivers and local business owners are frustrated because the road has been under construction for some time.

"It's a lot of work that needs to be done," he explained.

Valdez said Boyette is a huge project, involving not just widening the road to four lanes but also building two new bridges, a stormwater system, retention ponds, acquiring private property, utility relocation and adding sidewalks and bike lanes.

Smith, owner of animal grooming business Pawtopia, recognizes the widening project is needed but doesn't understand why it is taking so long. She said it is almost impossible to get to her shop during rush hour because traffic is bumper to bumper and construction crews are everywhere.

"It's a nightmare," said Smith, whose shop is on Boyette Road near Bell Shoals. "A lot of people complain. Our regular customers tough it out. But, we have not seen an increase in new people. They don't want to deal with it."

Valdez said the widening project will help improve what is already a heavily-traveled road.

County officials estimate that about 20,000 vehicles travel Boyette each day. The heavy traffic is due to growth in eastern Hillsborough, Valdez said, which includes Fishhawk Ranch in nearby Lithia. Traffic was often bumper to bumper before the project started, he said.

"People forget that was a rural area until about 20 years ago," he said. "(Now) it is absolutely a busy, busy hub."

In addition to commuters, there are four schools along Boyette between U.S. 301 and Bell Shoals. The most recent, Valrico Academy, a charter school, opened in 2011 near the corner of Boyette and Bell Shoals. New businesses have opened in recent years, too.

Valdez said the widening project is critical to improving traffic flow; cutting commute times; and improving access to local schools, businesses and restaurants.

When Nicholson moved to Fishhawk Ranch about 11 years ago, he said, a county official told him the widening project would not take long. More than a decade later and he's still waiting for its completion.

Nicholson, an attorney with Tampa Electric, is thrilled the project is almost over but wishes something could be done to speed up traffic in the meantime. It often takes him 50 minutes to get to his job in Tampa, much of that time spent waiting behind a long line of cars at Boyette and Bell Shoals.

"It's inconvenient," he said. "We're looking forward for it to be much better."

Valdez knows some aren't happy that the project impacts traffic and access to local businesses. He said they are doing their best to re-route traffic and accommodate businesses and asks everyone to be patient. He said other parts of Boyette are a motorist's dream.

"The sections we have improved are flowing nicely now," he said.

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