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Proposed reversible lane on Bloomingdale Avenue draws ire

Winthrop Town Centre founder John Sullivan met with interested residents and business owners on Sept. 18 to discuss a recent proposal to create a peak-time reversible lane on Bloomingdale Avenue.
Winthrop Town Centre founder John Sullivan met with interested residents and business owners on Sept. 18 to discuss a recent proposal to create a peak-time reversible lane on Bloomingdale Avenue.
Published Sep. 21, 2017

RIVERVIEW — Bloomingdale Avenue business owners and members of the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce are preparing to protest possible changes to the busy roadway that they say will likely take away millions in tax revenue from the county and cut their profits by as much as 40 percent.

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

"Say you want to go to Starbucks (next to Bloomingdale High). That will mean that you will have to drive down Bloomindale, turn right onto Culbreath Road and find a safe place to make a U-turn to catch the light and turn left and then right to get into the business," said John Sullivan, co-founder of Winthrop Town Centre in Riverview, during a meeting Monday at the mixed-use complex.

Sullivan has paid for his own traffic study to see how the proposed changes would affect commuter times and business profits. The study is not yet completed, but Sullivan said he believes the county's proposed changes would cut commuter time down by about a minute.

At this point, the project is a feasibility study, according to Rich Clarendon, assistant director of the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization.

"It's nowhere near to being a project yet," Clarendon said, adding that he's already met with several business owners and community members about their concerns over the possible changes.

If the changes are approved by county officials, don't expect a major overhaul on the road to accommodate the new traffic pattern. Road widening, construction of a new parallel road or reconfiguration of an adjacent street to work as a one-way pair, are not feasible options, according to the county's study, because of expected right-of- way impacts.

At the most, the county would implement new traffic signals or "innovative intersection treatments" to relieve traffic on the road.

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.

But while county transportation planners are looking for ways to improve traffic flow on the busy road, business owners are scrambling to make sure their profits stay viable.

"My husband owns [Winthrop Liquors] and that's his retirement," said Cynthia Manchesi, Winthrop vice-president. "If this happens, there goes his retirement."

Still, county officials believe reversible lanes could be the best option for relieving traffic backup on Bloomingdale Avenue. Widening the road to six lanes is not an option.

"Bloomingdale Avenue is not only a main street for residents in the area but a commuter route," Clarendon said. "Short of doing a major widening, if we did make that a six-lane road, we're looking at taking away major property."

Other areas in the country, according to Clarendon, have had success in establishing reversible traffic lanes, including Jacksonville, Salt Lake City and Indianapolis.

But there have also been some failures.

Nancee Sorenson, Hillsborough Community College Brandon campus president, came to the meeting as a representative of the Greater Brandon Community Foundation. She said when she lived in Tucson, Ariz., reversible lanes were put in place on a busy east to west thoroughfare. Residents, she said, nicknamed the road "the suicide lanes."

"They ended up reversing them because it was much more awkward to have them because you always had to be on the lookout for people making turns … but our main problem here is that many of these side streets don't connect [to Bloomingdale Avenue,]" Sorenson said.

The study will be discussed by the county's planning commission at a 2 p.m. Oct. 9 meeting at 601 E Kennedy Blvd. in Tampa.

Contact Crystal Owens at hillsnews@tampabay.com.