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Applaud and drive the new Starkey Boulevard

If you're the kind of person who likes to be the first to drive on a newly paved road (you know who you are), mark this on your calendar: Starkey Boulevard opens tomorrow. That's Tuesday, Jan. 11, at 11 a.m.

Okay, it probably won't be open to traffic right at 11 a.m. Ribbons will be cut. Words will be spoken. Hands will clap. This all will take place at Starkey Bridge South, about a mile and a quarter north of State Road 54.

Then, the 3.1-mile road opens.

Why such fanfare over 5 kilometers of asphalt? This road will help take some of the north-south load off Little Road. That's good news, since the intersection of SR 54 and Little Road is busy and dangerous. It will also help take some pressure off SR 54.

The multiuse trail along Starkey Boulevard also adds 3 miles to the county's growing web of trails.

Why is the road necessary? Consider these numbers for a minute. Initially, the traffic load is expected to be about 4,000 cars a day. Within five years, that's expected to rise to 18,000 cars a day. We'll see how accurate those numbers are. But the expected rate of increase tells you how quickly that area is growing.

By the way, the county engineering folks tell us it is coming in under budget (the $10.3-million cost is about $200,000 under the original estimate) and earlier than expected (by about a month). Let's repeat that: It's coming in under budget and sooner than anticipated.

What now?

Are you sick of hearing about the widening of County Line Road in Meadow Pointe? We're sick of writing about it.

But people have questions. We try to give answers.

The construction, which took so long to get started, seems to have stopped. Or certainly slowed down.

Here's why: utility issues.

Work had to slow down so the construction folks could double-/triple-check where all the utility lines are.

Remember the stories out of Hillsborough County, where Verizon work crews hit water and sewer lines? With those highly publicized line breaks late last year, we all learned that sometimes work crews don't know exactly where everything is buried.

That brings us to the Meadow Pointe job.

In that area, if work crews hit a water main or a power line, they knock everybody out, according to the county's project manager on that job. That's why the work crews are slowing down to double-/triple-check.

The project manager says things will pick up steam soon. He estimates that, yes, the job will be done before school starts next year. Hope so.

Want to vent about traffic problems? Drivers' Side welcomes commuters' rants, comments and suggestions. Send e-mail to hegartysptimes.com, or leave a phone message at (813) 909-4610.

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