Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Opinion

Navigating Bruce B. Downs? Hurry up and sit

If you live in the New Tampa area and depend on the Bruce B. Downs Boulevard gantlet of despair to get to where you need to go please be advised that you are completely, absolutely, definitely toast-squared for the foreseeable future.

Or if you need to get somewhere tomorrow — leave now. You just might make it on time. Or perhaps not. But you already knew that.

In ordinary times, Bruce B. Downs was more impassable than Afghanistan's Tora Bora. But all that is about to change — for the slower — as a crush of construction is about to get under way. The work is expected to last — and you might want to start drinking heavily right now — years.

Earlier this year the $95 million project to replace interstate spans over Bruce B. Downs began. And Hillsborough County is presently expanding the roadway from four lanes to eight.

It's all very nice. And when all the work gets done some 18 months from now (or longer), ol' Bruce is going to look might spiffy, although you'll still be sitting there from 2012 trying to pick up a loaf of bread from Publix.

"It's tough out there, to be sure," said Florida Department of Transportation spokesman John McShaffrey, who was asked how much worse will the blob of congestion get during all the construction. "The glib answer is — can it get any worse?"

How comforting.

But McShaffrey was only being honest. New Tampa has seen its population explode as more subdivisions evolved along with a burgeoning retail environment. Alas, Bruce B. Downs has remained basically unchanged — a classic case of trying to cram (and let's clean this up) 10 pounds of garbage into a 5-pound bag.

McShaffrey advised victims of Bruce B. Downs to consider adding perhaps 10 additional minutes to their travels during the construction carnage. Now there's a pillar of optimism for you. Ten minutes? Really? Perhaps McShaffrey meant to say you should add 10 minutes to the 12 hours you've already allotted just to get out of your driveway.

Motorists aren't the only ones trapped in the Bermuda Triangle of traffic.

Suzanne Young, 28, is a recent transplant to the area to work on a Ph.D. in integrative biology at the University of South Florida. An avid cyclist, she rides (or tries to) her bike to campus from her New Tampa home.

"Traffic here can be so horrible," Young said of trying to navigate her way along Bruce B. Downs, which she noted is "kinda scary."

Young bemoaned the many motorists who seem either oblivious or rude to cyclists, not at all like her previous home, where motorists were far more aware, courteous and accommodating toward people riding bikes.

And where was that? "New York City," Young replied.

It probably says something that attempting to traverse Bruce B. Downs represents more of a challenge to life and limb than pedaling around Manhattan where cab drivers act as if they are trying to avoid improvised explosive devices on Seventh Avenue.

The construction along Bruce B. Downs promises to be even more thrilling for cyclists as motorists wend their way around lane shifts, realignments, barrels and other distractions. McShaffrey said DOT is repainting ramps and bike lanes and restripping crosswalks.

Then there is this. McShaffrey also noted the rebuilt overpasses are being raised in order to someday — someday — accommodate a rail system.

For the refugees of Bruce B. Downs someday can't arrive soon enough.

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