Neighbors worry about plan to widen expressway
By JACKIE RIPLEY
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. They 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.
Expressway officials said they would be considering all the comments and observations from the meeting as they proceed.
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 after 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.
[Last modified August 2, 2006, 06:38:07]
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