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New Tampa

Driving will be a headache

The DOT will search for tens of millions in funding to widen Bruce B. Downs. But don't expect work to begin any time soon.

By JOHN BALZ, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 5, 2003


NEW TAMPA -- Traffic will continue to dominate discussions in New Tampa this year, with Bruce B. Downs Boulevard attracting continued attention.

"It's the most failed road in Hillsborough County," said Jim Davison, a Hunter's Green physician and candidate last year for Hillsborough County Commission.

First the good news: Bruce B. Downs will be widened, probably to eight-lanes.

Now the bad news: Construction crews won't break ground this year. Instead, the state Department of Transportation will try to figure out how to come up with all the money for the project.

The DOT is considering three eight-lane alternatives, which range in price from $66-million to more than $100-million. They are poised to select an option soon. The price tags could rise because they include only the cost of constructing roads, not stormwater retention ponds to handle runoff.

In October, the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization voted to endorse a version with eight lanes of urban roadway and reserved right of way for future mass transit, such as a light rail system.

Currently, however, the state and the county have set aside only $39-million, which will likely cover the widening from Tampa Palms to Cross Creek Boulevard.

Finding more money is a top priority, Davison said.

And New Tampa drivers' headaches will continue for at least a few years more. Construction on Bruce B. Downs probably won't begin until 2006.

By that time Pasco County, which has adequate funds, is expected to have finished widening its portion of Bruce B. Downs to six lanes. They could break ground as early as this year, with a finish date expected in 2005.

-- John Balz can be reached at (813) 269-5313 or at balz@sptimes.com .

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