1. Transportation

Planning commission to rethink Bloomingdale Avenue reversible lane proposal

RIVERVIEW — Business owners and residents of Bloomingdale Avenue breathed a cautious sigh of relief Monday after Hillsborough County planning commissioners said converting the busy roadway into reversible lanes is no longer an option.

The proposed changes, cited in the Aug. 17 Brandon Corridors & Mixed-Use Centers Pilot Program, if approved, would have converted the center turn lanes and medians on Bloomingdale Avenue into reversible lanes during peak traffic times. The changes would have affected the road from U.S. 301 in Brandon to Lithia Pinecrest Road in Valrico, meaning motorists couldn't make left turns.

The Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission revealed at a community engagement meeting at the Regent it would look at other changes.

"What the recommendation is now is that we not move forward with reversible lanes but instead we look at some of these intersection improvements, shorter term, smaller things that can be done to improve the operation," said Melissa Zornitta, executive director of the planning commission.

Her statement was met with applause.

Zornitta said planning commission members received numerous emails, calls and texts from residents and business owners who complained that the proposed change would have an adverse effect on their profit margins and way of life.

"We're just about in our fourth year in business and to hear this type of proposal being put forward, it could be very hurtful to not only my business but to other businesses around us," said Lacy Vince, co-owner of the Stein & Vine, a craft beer and wine bar at the corner of Bloomingdale and Kings avenues. "One thing that I love about this community is that it's built on neighborhoods. We're not tourist-driven. We are built on helping each other and preventing people from getting into businesses, no matter what time of the day it is, will hurt everyone involved."

The study is a comprehensive look at the areas in Brandon west of Interstate 75 and south of U.S. 301 and east of Dover. The project examines how to improve traffic congestion traveling on the east to west roadways as well as identifying potential redevelopment areas and exploring types of development with better connectivity and walkability.

"What we're looking at here is the beginning of the journey, not the end of the journey," said Jay Collins, Hillsborough County Planning Commission member. "What we're looking at is can we identify these three major corridors and what should they become and how?"

Brandon, the study said, is nearly built out and there are no viable options to build a parallel road. Lumsden Road and Brandon Boulevard, it says, are the only other roadways in the area that run east to west, but are located too far to the north to accommodate reversible traffic lanes.

County planners expect the Brandon area to continue its growth, meaning more motorists on a road that already serves as a thoroughfare for commuters into downtown Tampa and MacDill Air Force Base.

Collins said 16 percent of retail business in Hillsborough County is located in the Brandon study area. However, 8 percent of the county's population lives in the area. Twenty percent of the area, he said, has already been developed or can be redeveloped.

There were other residents at the meeting to speak about transportation issues, but the majority of speakers were there to voice their disdain over the proposed Bloomingdale Avenue reversible lanes.

"Be mindful of your local business community because these decisions can very highly impact our business community and these are jobs. These are people who live, work and play," said Tanya Doran, executive director of the Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce.

The planning commission will take its recommendations to the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners sometime next month.

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