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Scandals, setbacks delay construction of East-West Road

By EMILY NIPPS, AMBER MOLBY, and STEPHANIE HAYES
Published January 5, 2007


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Assuming everything goes as planned, New Tampa's proposed East-West Road could have a financier-builder in place and ready to proceed by the end of the year.

If 2007 is anything like 2006, however, that assumes a lot.

Though the Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority has promised to stay on track with the project, the toll-road agency's recent ethical issues and crumbling reputation might suggest a few distractions. Since the Expressway Authority took over the $150-million project, scandal has plagued the agency.

The Expressway Authority fired its legal counsel, which led to a series of federal and state investigations into the agency's hiring practices. Then, the agency's executive director Ralph Mervine resigned after his connection to a California pornographic film company was discovered.

Expressway Authority officials have all but guaranteed that the East-West Road is still a go. It recently appointed an interim executive director, Steve Reich, who was heavily involved in Maryland's policies on public-private partnership roads. He is expected to lead the interviews of the East-West Road's two bidding firms: Spain's OHL and a multinational consortium called Plenary Roads Tampa.

The Expressway Authority will likely begin the interviews early this year and hopes to be working on a contract within months. This process is crucial if the agency intends to stick with the target opening date of 2009.

However, the whole thing could be derailed again if the Expressway Authority disbands in favor of a regional transit authority. Reich's leadership of the board as it moves forward with the public-private partnership process in the coming months will likely go a long way in saving the East-West Road ... and the agency.

Emily Nipps can be reached at nipps@sptimes.com or 269-5313.

It's been more than a year of public meetings, ballots and a bit of brouhaha. But starting this summer, Carrollwood Village and Original Carrollwood can expect to see the county installing traffic-calming devices on their streets.

And while the county has no set dates for the work to start or finish, the speed humps, raised and textured intersections and other devices residents voted for to control traffic should not take very long to install, said traffic services director Michael McCarthy.

The County Commission has approved all the needed funding - about $1.2-million - and the work is ready to be put out to bid.

Feeling victimized by speeding cut-through traffic on their neighborhood streets, residents on the west and east sides of busy N Dale Mabry Highway looked to traffic-calming as a solution.

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

Do you frequent construction-ridden Race Track Road? Brace yourself - you're in for a long ride.

Hillsborough County is in the midst of expanding the road from two to six lanes. Drivers and nearby residents will likely see construction until 2010.

"We're asking everybody's patience," said county spokesman Steve Valdez. "Unfortunately, it's a roadway that's a failing roadway in that it has way more traffic on it than it should have, and when you're trying to widen the roadway and maintain that traffic at the same time, it's quite a tricky thing."

The phase of the project from S Mobley Road to Countryway Boulevard is under construction and should be done by spring.

The next phase of the project, widening the road from Countryway to Linebaugh Avenue, will likely start in late spring or early summer, Valdez said.

"There's some utility relocation that has to happen," Valdez said, "but it looks like we're doing really well."

A portion from Douglas Road to Linebaugh Avenue won't be completed until December 2009, and the section from Hillsborough Avenue to Douglas won't be done until 2010.

The project has nearly doubled in cost since its inception, Valdez said, because construction and real estate costs keep inching up.

Valdez said the project is mostly on schedule, but real estate acquisitions and permitting can often mire the process.

"When you have to go through the court system and so on, you never know what to expect," he said.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at 269-5303 or shayes@sptimes.com.

This is the year. The Carrollwood Cultural Center is scheduled to open late this summer.

While the county still doesn't have an opening date for the center, the construction company CEM Enterprise Inc. of Tampa is still on schedule to complete the project, said Peter Fowler, division manager for Parks, Recreation and Conservation.

And last year's quiet hurricane season helped the nearly $5-million project stay on track.

The product of a partnership between the county and community organization Friends of Carrollwood Cultural Center, the center should be a beacon for cultural activity, said Tom Jones, president of the Friends group.

For months, the Friends have hosted music and art events in an annex adjacent to the future center.

When the cultural center is completed, Jones envisions a seven-day-a-week operation, where people from all over the area can come to drink coffee, talk to friends, work in the arts rooms, take lessons, create pottery and attend recitals.

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

Changes for schools

First up is James A. Hammond Elementary School, being built on the Walker Middle School campus in Keystone. It's slated to draw students from Citrus Park, Schwarzkopf and McKitrick elementaries. Also, a new middle school will be under construction in Citrus Park. Page 3

Plans for fields

As more youth sports teams scramble for places to play, Hillsborough County aims to come up with a plan. Sports coaches from areas including Westchase, Keystone, New Tampa and Brandon have pined for bigger and better playing spaces. Page 13

New cultural center

Soon residents will be able to use arts rooms, take lessons, create pottery and attend recitals at the Carrollwood Cultural Center. It is scheduled to open late this summer. Last year's quiet hurricane season helped the nearly $5-million project stay on track . Page 9

 

 

 

[Last modified January 4, 2007, 22:01:41]


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