Problem intersection to get straightened out
By BILL COATS, Times Staff Writer
LUTZ -- After a decade of traffic crashes and neighborhood angst, the problem intersection of County Line Road and Livingston Avenue finally is going to be straightened out.
Hillsborough County is designing plans to build a new quarter-mile section of County Line, which will dip toward the southwest and reach Livingston Avenue directly at Collier Parkway. That will form a conventional four-way intersection, curing a 65-foot misalignment that has plagued the corner since Collier was extended there in 1990.
The $800,000 project is to be finished a year from now.
With design work nearly two-thirds complete, Hillsborough engineers are inviting the public to a meeting about the plans at Lutz Elementary School on April 17.
Neighbors are pleased, but guardedly so.
"It isn't done yet," said David Varga, who owns one of seven homes directly fronting County Line east of the Livingston intersection.
Their section of the road will be converted into a dead end, branching off the new section.
After lobbying two counties and the state for years, the neighbors achieved a final breakthrough last October, when the Florida Department of Transportation squeezed $283,290 for the realignment from a grants program. That filled a financial gap that had haunted the project for two years.
"Without having that money, I don't think the project would have been feasible," said Tom Mueller, the Hillsborough staff engineer managing the realignment.
Pasco County had committed up to $226,110, and Hillsborough had pledged up to $300,000.
Collier was built by the developers of Pasco County's Willow Bend subdivision, who wanted it to end in a curve funneling traffic southward onto Livingston and Hillsborough. Hillsborough County, which has tried to protect Livingston's rural two-lane status, blocked that plan. It required that Collier approach Livingston in an east-west direction, aiming traffic onto County Line. But the developer balked at a direct alignment with County Line Road because of prohibitive right-of-way costs.
A few years later, neighbors there began complaining as growing volumes of traffic generated growing numbers of accidents. Engineers counted 18,000 vehicles a day passing through the intersection in 1999.
Several years ago, a van wiped out two mailboxes and landed upside-down next to Varga's sidewalk, he said.
"It seems like every other night and every week, we've got an accident out there," said another neighbor, Roland Hamel.
Confusion at the stop signs also has contributed to long rush-hour backups, and neighbors get an earful when they venture to their mailboxes.
"People in the cars are lined up and aggravated," Hamel said.
Hillsborough recognized the problem as far back as 1989, the year county commissioners rezoned 37 acres southeast of the intersection for a shopping center. The rezoning committed property owner Jack Greenslade of Tampa to donate land for the realignment. He is doing so for credit against impact fees when the shopping center is developed.
Greenslade could not be reached about his plans. But in recent meetings with county officials, he has been accompanied by a developer.
When the intersection is moved, it also will be widened to include a new left-turn-only lane from County Line onto Livingston. Collier's lanes will be unchanged. But stop signs on Collier and County Line will be replaced by a stoplight.
The old stretch of County Line in front of the houses will become Turtle Lakes Lane. A strip of land between it and the new road initially will become sodded ditches. But Greenslade's developer will be required to add landscaping there whenever the shopping center is built, Hillsborough's Mueller said.
"It's a very good design," said Hamel. "But still we have to have some input here on a berm or a wall."
During green lights, east-west motorists will be able to drive through the intersection non-stop for the first time. Mueller said they'll be able to do that, legally, at up to 45 mph.
-- Bill Coats can be reached at (813) 269-5309 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Plans for realigning County Line Road are the topic of a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. April 17 in the Lutz Elementary School cafeteria, 202 5th Ave. SE.
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