Hillsborough approves $1.4 billion in transportation improvement projects

Published June 2, 2015

TAMPA — The Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization board approved a 5-year plan Tuesday that outlines $1.4 billion worth of projects, including widening U.S. Highway 301 in Sun City Center and synchronizing 255 traffic signals in Tampa.

The projects, funded primarily with state and federal transportation dollars, include improvements for roads, bridges, intersections, sidewalks, trails and transit.

Some of the funded projects include freeway management systems, road expansions, replacement buses and pedestrian and bike safety improvements.

"A number of these are major resurfacing projects, which don't sound too sexy, but those are an opportunity for us to come in and see what's being done in terms of crosswalks and safety improvements," said Rich Clarendon, senior planning manager of the MPO.

The largest chunk of funding, 40 percent, is dedicated to ports, airports and freight rail. Intersection and signalization projects make up the next biggest pot, accounting for 19 percent of the $1.4 billion.

Funding is already secured for an advanced traffic management system that will synchronize more than 250 traffic signals on many major roadways, including Kennedy Boulevard and Fowler and Hillsborough avenues.

The $37 million project is expected to begin in 2018 and be completed by 2020.

"This was a major coup for the city of Tampa," Clarendon said.

Executive Director Beth Alden said investing in the traffic light synchronization is "a big departure" from where the MPO has focused its resources in the past. Typically, significant funding is devoted to individual road widening projects that affect limited portions of the populations. However, a widespread project like the traffic lights has the potential to impact a much larger group of people.

"Our road widening projects, they're large investments in a limited area," Alden said. "And if there's somewhere that you can take the dollars that we have and get more bang for the buck, spread them around a larger geographic area, I think that's all to the good. "

The full list of projects was compiled after the MPO forwarded a list of priorities to the Department of Transportation for consideration. Those priorities were then matched with available funding, most of which comes from state resources.

Other major projects include providing vans for the regional vanpool programs, widening Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, resurfacing sections of Interstate 4 and Florida and Hillsborough avenues, and pedestrian and bike improvements along Willow Avenue, Bayshore Boulevard and Bougainvillea Avenue.

Contact Caitlin Johnston at or (813) 226-3401. Follow @cljohnst.