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Truck route plan may wind up redirected

For years, Lithia Pinecrest Road has been the albatross of Hillsborough County's Truck Route Plan.

Some want it removed from the plan, arguing it's not safe to have heavy trucks rumbling down a busy but narrow highway. Others say it should remain a vital shipping corridor between Polk County's phosphate producers and the Port of Tampa.

"Somebody is going to be unhappy no matter what you do," said Bill McCall, a senior professional engineer with the county's transportation division, "and if they speak loud enough to the board, and the board sympathizes with them, it's going to go on and on and on."

Lithia Pinecrest won't be the only road discussed at next week's public forum and Hillsborough County Commission hearing on Hillsborough County's Truck Route Plan. But it is likely be one of the more lively discussions.

The forum, scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at the County Center, will feature a County Commission vote on whether to amend the Truck Route Plan.

The proposed changes are the result of a three-year study of existing truck routes, including surrounding land uses, accident data and proximity of schools and other public attractors. A committee of public officials from several local agencies used a complex formula to determine which roads were best suited for truck traffic.

In the end, the committee recommended 15 changes to the county's Truck Route Plan. Among them:

+ Currently, most of Lithia Pinecrest is a truck route with a 50,000-pound weight limit. But the committee recommends removing a section of the road between State Road 60 and Bloomingdale Avenue, a move welcomed by Valrico residents. Trucks loaded with phosphates are usually too heavy for the 50,000-pound limit, however, empty and smaller trucks can still use Lithia Pinecrest.

"Those trucks are moving pretty quick, and you're trying to make a turn into your neighborhood," said Claude "Frenchy" Fortin. "In my mind, we've been lucky there hasn't been a bigger accident on that road."

Some Sun City Center residents have argued that such a move could result in more truck traffic on State Road 674, but McCall says that should not be the case.

"The large trucks, the ones over 50,000 pounds, they shouldn't be using Lithia Pinecrest anyhow," McCall said. "They're already finding some other route _ and we don't think it's through State Road 674."

+ South of Bloomingdale, Lithia Pinecrest would remain a truck route, at least until 2007, when the county hopes to wrap up a project widening a large stretch of Boyette Road-FishHawk Boulevard. At that point, the county will consider converting Boyette-FishHawk to a truck route, and eliminating the stretch of Lithia Pinecrest between Bloomingdale and FishHawk.

+ Add a stretch of Balm Riverview Road between County Road 672 and Rhodine Road to the plan. This designation could be extended north to Boyette once Boyette is widened.

+ Add Rhodine between Balm Riverview Road and U.S. 301 to the plan.

+ Falkenburg Road, part of which is already a truck route, would be added to the plan between Progress Boulevard and U.S. 301. Falkenburg south of Eagle Palm Drive would be removed from the plan.

+ Palm River Road would be removed from the plan between U.S. 41 and Falkenburg.

+ Around Plant City, Wilder Road would be removed from the Truck Route Plan between U.S. 92 and South Frontage Road. Jim Johnson Road from Park Road to Alexander Street would be added as a truck route. Forbes Road would be added from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to U.S. 92.

_ Jay Cridlin can be reached at 661-2442 or cridlinsptimes.com.

If you go

A public forum on Hillsborough County truck routes is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at the County Center, 601 E Kennedy Blvd. The County Commission is expected to vote on whether to add 15 proposed changes to the Truck Route Plan. For more information on the changes or the plan, visit www.hillsboroughcounty.org/pgm/ transportation/truckroute or call Bill McCall at 276-8375.

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