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Many worry over plan to widen Xway

Residents think the Veterans project will affect their homes, some of which are already too close.

Published August 2, 2006

TAMPA - Debbie Fagg still remembers the dust, noise and fumes from construction of the Veterans Expressway 15 years ago.

That's because it was going up virtually in the back yard of her Town 'N Country home.

And now it looks as if history might repeat itself.

"I had so many sleepless nights," said Fagg who lives on Southern Comfort Boulevard. "We live right on the edge of the highway as it is and now they want to move it 14 feet closer."

Debbie and Daryl Fagg were at a Turnpike Authority meeting Tuesday night in Citrus Park. The hoped to learn what will happen when the Turnpike Enterprise eight-lanes most of the Veterans' 12 miles between Memorial Highway and Van Dyke Road.

They know their property will be affected. They don't know what the state might do about it.

"If they'll just take our house we'll move to Tennessee," said Daryl Fagg .

Some who attended Tuesday's meeting said they were relieved that their property would not be affected. Others worried about added flooding, more noise, or losing their homes. Expressway officials said they would be considering all these comments and observations as they proceed with their study.

Opened in 1994, the Veterans stretches 15 miles from Memorial to N Dale Mabry Highway. The three miles at the northern end would remain four lanes.

The expressway's traffic has doubled since 1994 to more than 53,000 vehicles per day. By 2032, projections call for as many as 154,000.

"When we plan for a facility, we have to do it for at least 20 years out," said Turnpike spokeswoman Joanne Hurley.

She said about three-fourths of the drivers using the Veterans head south in the morning rush hour and north in late afternoon. So the existing four lanes are spacious most of the day, but backed up in the heavy commuting hours.

Turnpike officials plan to begin designing the widening later this year, following a final public hearing.

But construction isn't likely before 2012. The Turnpike agency would need to borrow as much as $650-million for the project, and can't do that without permission from the Florida Legislature.

That price tag comes despite Turnpike officials' expectations that the widening should require relatively little new land. They plan to build the new lanes where the grassy medians currently exist.

Times staff writer Bill Coats contributed to this report. Jackie Ripley can be reached at or 813 269-5308.

[Last modified August 2, 2006, 06:17:06]

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