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Wait for road extension continues

Patience, commuters. The Cross Creek Boulevard connector should be finished in six to eight weeks.

By MELIA BOWIE, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 3, 2002


NEW TAMPA -- If they weren't being held hostage by traffic, some residents here might laugh at the snaillike progress of the Cross Creek Boulevard extension to Morris Bridge Road.

"It's been written up so many times it's become almost a laughing matter for the people out here because of the delays," said Don Nevins, president of the New Tampa Transportation Task Force. "We had promises after promises that it would be completed and it's far overdue. It's been a two-year battle."

Now the last leg of the extension -- a third of a mile stretch that stalled completion of this alternate route in and out of New Tampa -- is set to be completed in six to eight weeks, said City Council member Shawn Harrison.

City officials gave Kearney Development permission to proceed with the project's final phase on Tuesday after gaining the necessary permits.

"It's absolutely critical," said Harrison, who had pushed for the extension, which will provide east-west access to the interstate. "That'll take a lot of burden off Bruce B. Downs."

With deeds in hand for right of way and permits from the Environmental Protection Commission for wetlands mitigation, workers can clear grubbing and remove trees this week, said Mahdi Mansour of the city's transportation department.

"You're going to be seeing a lot of activity there," he said, also promising improvements such as left turn lanes from Morris Bridge onto Cross Creek.

Whether drivers will use the new route to cut down on commute time was never in question. Although longer, the connector will offer motorists an alternative to Bruce B. Downs, the congested north-south artery that is now the only way to access New Tampa.

Likely users of the extension include motorists from Arbor Greene, Cross Creek and Heritage Isles, who now brave gridlock as they head downtown.

"I think that road going through is going to be advantageous, especially for those in my neighborhood," said Regina Ramalheira of Cross Creek.

Although the extension has been planned for years, "there were all kinds of issues with the ownership of the right of way," Mansour said. Developers US Home, Star Development Inc. and the Heritage Isles CDD finally deeded the city the last piece of land on Dec. 14. Right-of-way acquisitions totaled $450,000.

Capacity for the two-lane road will average between 12,000 and 14,000 vehicles per day, Mansour said.

That's not enough to cure New Tampa's traffic woes.

To make a bigger dent, commuters are calling for more projects, including the widening of Bruce B. Downs and construction of an east-west road to Interstate 275. The latter project is now under study.

What's more, development could accelerate once the new link is in place.

"At the other end of Morris Bridge, there's supposedly going to be another shopping center," Ramalheira said. "The number of homes and apartments along Cross Creek is going to be phenomenal; there's still plenty left to be built up."

Though the link is not a cure-all, Ramalheira said that at this point, "We'll take anything, anything to improve the transportation and infrastructure problems out here."

- Melia Bowie can be reached at 269-5312 or bowie@sptimes.com.

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