tampabay.com

East-West connector high priority project

Even at this early stage, a familiar problem arises,the NIMBY syndrome: not inmyback yard.

By AMBER MOBLEY
Published June 18, 2006


UPPER TAMPA BAY - Does northwest Hillsborough desperately need an east-west link between Countryway Boulevard and Sheldon Road?

The consensus at a recent public meeting seems to be a resounding "yes" from the county officials and area residents.

But where to put a 2.82-mile, four-lane extension of Citrus Park Drive isn't agreed upon as easily.

While the proposed extension would mean quicker access to Citrus Park area shopping and parks, accommodations for a future boom in traffic volume and a new elementary school, residents are concerned that it will mean noise and danger for their families.

The road must maneuver through an area thick with wetlands, borrow pits, power lines and five residential developments - Fawn Ridge, Key West Circle, Mandolin Estates, Mandolin Reserve and Windsor Place.

About 60 people attended the county's first public meeting about the proposed extension on Thursday at the Upper Tampa Bay Library to view and discuss options the county is considering.

Fawn Ridge resident Barbara Dawes, who has two sons, ages 7 and 4, said she doesn't see a difference between three potential designs for the road.

"Plans one, two and three show that road in my back yard," said Dawes who lives on Breland Drive. "I could bounce a ball from my back yard and hit a car. ... It's too close."

The three featured layouts are only a few of many the county is considering in this very preliminary stage, said Gregory Cutrone, project manager for a consulting firm hired by the county to study the options.

The county is merely months into planning the proposed extension. No option is final and the county can always opt not to build it, Cutrone said. Upper Tampa Bay Alliance president Susan Edgerley hopes that won't be the county's final answer.

With planned bike lanes, sidewalks and a crossing for foot traffic, the extension is sure to be an asset to the area, Edgerley said.

The county has not identified money that will pay for designing and building the road. Amid soaring construction costs, the county's estimates for the project recently have risen past $130-million. Cutrone's assignment partly is to refine that estimate.

"We're only two to three months into this study," Cutrone said. "It wouldn't be fair to even try and guess a ballpark estimate," he said Thursday night.

The study should be complete this fall. A recommended route for the extension is scheduled to be presented at a second public meeting later this year.

Amber Mobley can be reached at (813) 269-5311 or amobley@sptimes.com.