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Wider Tampa Road also to be greener

Oldsmar and the state chip in to provide $231,237 worth of landscaping in the median of the 2.5-mile stretch from Curlew Road to SR 580.

After three years of barricades and construction equipment, Tampa Road is about to get prettier.

Crape myrtles, holly trees, elm trees, date palms and other landscaping will spruce up the road's median, thanks to a grant from the Florida Department of Transportation, which recently widened the road from two to six lanes.

"Wouldn't you rather see a nicely landscaped median than just to see a piece of concrete on the road?" said Melodee Dinwiddie, Oldsmar's grants administrator. "Green space is always better than cement space."

DOT notified Oldsmar in July that the city was awarded the $115,429 grant. The city will add some of its own money to the project, making the total cost of beautifying the Tampa Road median $231,237, according to the city's grant application.

The 2.5 miles of Tampa Road from Curlew Road to State Road 580 will get the plants, wildflowers and an irrigation system.

"We want to produce a landscaping plan that, while aesthetically pleasing, is not maintenance intensive," Dinwiddie said. "The intent of the design is to provide an eye-catching landscape belt using plants."

The city will begin beautifying the median around the start of 2000, Dinwiddie said. "By spring of next year, people should be able to see it."

The work to widen Tampa Road began in June 1996 and should be completed next week if there are no rain delays, said Ron Winter, DOT spokesman. Workers are busy painting the final lane markings on the road.

Road widening projects typically include only basic landscaping work such as grass on the medians, Winter said, so it is common for municipalities such as Oldsmar to want to add more greenery to the medians.

The state department usually tries to help with the cost of beautifying medians through the grants programs, Winter said. But municipalities have to follow state guidelines on landscaping.

"You can't obstruct traffic or sight lines," Winter said.

The $9.6-million project was supposed to take 715 days to widen the road. The project has taken about 1,050 days to be completed because of rain delays and disputes between the city, the contractor and DOT.