1. Archive

Plan for calming Ehrlich traffic has some upset

Slowing motorists on Ehrlich Road through the heart of Citrus Park is one of the tenets of the Citrus Park Community Plan.

But calming neighborhood concerns is proving to be a challenge just as great.

"We've spent millions of dollars acquiring property to widen Ehrlich to move people from point A to point B,'' said Virginia Street, who has lived on Alema Street in Citrus Park for 30 years.

"And now we're going to slow them down to 20 to 25 mph. It doesn't make a lot of sense.''

But it is part of the Citrus Park Village Plan, a blueprint crafted by property owners, county planners and consultants.

The plan, which is three years in the making, proposes a neo-urban setting where residents would live, work and play in a pedestrian-friendly community.

Having a four-lane road such as Ehrlich running through the heart of town is proving to be a major drawback.

Slowing traffic "will turn it into a Bruce B. Downs, a nightmare,'' said Frank Lavin, owner of Citrus Park Computers. "Sheldon Road by Sickles (High School) is already choked.''

Traffic calming measures also are proposed for a stretch of Gunn from Ehrlich south to the Citrus Park mall.

Some of those measures include tree canopies, center islands and medians, reduced speed limits, on-street parking, reduced lane width, and wider sidewalks.

"I'm all in favor of the community plan, but I'm not sure we're on the right track,'' Street said. "It takes 20 minutes to get six blocks in front of Sickles High School."

A lot has changed in the six years since Hillsborough County first began identifying communities ripe for planning.

And even more has changed in the three years since Citrus Park residents helped hammer out their own version of a traditional neighborhood landscape.

Shopping centers and condominium complexes have "boxed us in,'' said Linda Gadbaw, who has lived on Basswood Avenue for nearly three decades. "It will make it impossible to get out of our homes.''

There's even dissension within the county over the wisdom of slowing traffic on Ehrlich, despite engineering studies that claim Sheldon Road and the future Citrus Park Drive extension will take some of the traffic off Ehrlich.

"We're not telling you we're all for it,'' county project manager Tom Mueller told a Citrus Park audience last week. "We're not convinced doing traffic calming is the thing to do.''

Nor is civic activist Grant Walters.

"We're just beginning to develop the kind of network you need to move people from the northeast side of Pinellas and the northwest side of Hillsborough,'' Walters said.

"The big issue is that Ehrlich is a major east-west road for general transportation and for evacuations.''

The fact that money will not exist for this project until at least 2011 is doing little to quiet the criticism. As Gadbaw asks: "Why keep wasting taxpayers' time and money on meetings and studies?''

Jackie Ripley can be reached at or at (813) 269-5308.