Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan needs to find nearly a half million dollars _ and fast.
The money would pay for a traffic signal and turn lanes at Cross Creek Boulevard and Kinnan Street, an intersection that Hagan and many of his constituents say has become an unbearable safety hazard on one of New Tampa's busiest roads.
But commissioners decide what goes into next year's budget on July 31. That leaves Hagan less than a month to push for the project _ which didn't make it on the county's list of 102 high-priority intersections.
And the state Department of Transportation grant that was to pay for it appears earmarked for elsewhere.
Despite this, Hagan vowed he would get the cash somehow.
"It's gonna be done, one way or another," Hagan said during a Wednesday interview. "I don't know where the money will come from, but this will be included."
To get the project in the budget, Hagan needs three other commissioners to agree with him that the intersection poses a safety threat to hundreds of children who cross it every day on their way to Benito Middle School, the New Tampa Regional Library or nearby ballfields.
Hagan, who lives in Cross Creek, said the traffic has reached its breaking point since Cross Creek was extended to Morris Bridge Road last year. The city estimates that 24,000 vehicles use Cross Creek a day. A county study rated Cross Creek and Kinnan as one of the busiest pedestrian crossings in the county _ 110 school kids use it on an average weekday.
"I would not be able to live with myself if a child is injured trying to cross the road on his way to school," Hagan wrote in a memo to county administrator Dan Kleman. "This simply must be addressed immediately."
But the project is not on a $133-million wish list of intersection improvements approved by county commissioners in October. A consultant was paid $300,000 by the county and spent 18 months determining which intersections should be priorities.
At the time of the study, Cross Creek did not make the list approved by commissioners.
A subsequent review of the intersection's traffic placed it 36th on a new list, said Scott Cottrell, an engineer in the county's Public Works Department. But that list was never put before the commission for approval.
The intersection "is very low on the priority list," Kleman wrote in a June 2 letter. "I feel obligated to recommend funding intersection improvements according to the priority list."
Hagan had hoped for a windfall of cash from a DOT safety grant, but county officials say chances of nabbing state money are remote.
So Hagan said he hopes to convince commissioners that the project should leapfrog other intersection projects planned for elsewhere in the county. He said he has at least one ally in Commissioner Jim Norman, who on June 26 backed Hagan in his nomination of the project for next year's budget.
"I think I can get the two other votes needed," Hagan said.
_ Michael Van Sickler can be reached at 269-5312 or mvansicklersptimes.com.