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Loss of traffic light could pinch community

(ran PC edtion of PASCO TIMES)

Business owners along Dona Michelle Drive are certain that the removal of the traffic light at their street's intersection with Bruce B. Downs Boulevard will hurt their bottom lines. They just aren't sure by how much.

Homeowners living around Dona Michelle say it will lengthen their commute to work. They just aren't sure by how long.

The Tampa City Council and the transportation department are considering removing the traffic light and restricting left turns in and out of Dona Michelle as a way to relieve congestion along New Tampa's main road. They are also considering lengthening the green lights on Bruce B. Downs and altering the median to restrict traffic movements.

If the changes were adopted, customers and homeowners who entered Dona Michelle would have to drive up to Highwoods Preserve to make a left turn onto southbound Bruce B. Downs.

"It's going to be a nightmare," said Debbi Coleman, the manager of Space Plus Self Storage, which is the business farthest from the traffic light.

Coleman estimated that Space Plus would lose about 80 percent of its business, but said that was just an educated guess.

David Fredman, manager of Kauffman Tires, said he thought he'd lose 50 percent of his business. But until the proposal was adopted and he could count the number of cars no longer coming in for new tires, he wouldn't know for certain.

"They'll just get disgusted that they can't get in here and they'll go up to Tires Plus," Fredman said.

Besides Space Plus and Kauffman Tires, five other businesses can be found between Dona Michelle and Interstate 75 in the North Palms shopping center. These include Wingate Inn, New Tampa's only hotel.

Wingate managing partner David Larson said the proposal to remove the light "doesn't make sense." He said he wasn't sure what kind of recourse he had but that he'd explore all options.

"We paid over $100,000 in impact fees," he said. "Are they going to give us a refund?"

Business owners aren't the only ones who would be affected if the proposal was adopted.

Hunters Key, a 3{-year-old development of 138 homes, is located a couple of hundred yards behind Dona Michelle and homeowners use the road to reach Bruce B. Downs for their daily commutes. In addition, a new apartment complex is being built south of Space Plus on Dona Michelle.

Joe Shanklin, president of Hunters Key Homeowners Association, said there is already a backup of cars in the morning waiting to exit Dona Michelle and removing the light would create a bigger backup of cars waiting to exit Highwoods Preserve.

"It'll take 30 more minutes to get out," he predicted.

Because Bruce B. Downs is a Hillsborough County road, city officials will sit down with their counterparts from the county later this month to decide which of the traffic proposals, if any, to pursue.

_ John Balz can be reached at (813) 269-5313 or at balzsptimes.com.

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