By DONG-PHUONG NGUYEN
Published January 18, 2007
TAMPA - The two-lane road meanders for about a mile through open land primed for development. In the distance, houses with fresh paint and new sod peek out from behind transplanted trees.
The road was built so residents in bustling New Tampa could get from Hillsborough to Pasco County without having to take traffic-clogged Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.
But at the end of the road, named Kinnan Street, sit barricades and weeds, concrete barrels and dirt. About 60 feet away, across the county line, is another road, which was supposed to connect and complete the path to Pasco.
The two roads might never bridge the weedy patch, leaving a worthless $2.2-million road to nowhere.
Hillsborough County officials say Pasco County had promised to connect the two roads. But Pasco now says it doesn't want the extra traffic from New Tampa on already battered streets.
Because of crossed signals between the two counties, the road may never be used to its full potential.
"We did our job," said Bob Campbell, Hillsborough's director of transportation and land development review. "Pasco indicated to us they'd make it connect at the appropriate time."
Pasco County officials now say there might never be a right time.
"We cannot consider (joining the roads)," said Bipin Parikh, assistant Pasco County administrator. He said he needs to look out for the best interests of the residents and streets of Meadow Pointe, to the north of the road with traffic problems of its own.
Parikh said if the connection is made between Kinnan Street and Meadow Pointe's Mansfield Boulevard, motorists from New Tampa would then head west on County Line Road. That is essentially the only convenient way in and out for Meadow Pointe's roughly 7,000 families and already is so heavily used it needs resurfacing, he said.
"Everyone is familiar with Cross Creek Boulevard and the traffic nightmare on that road," he said. "I do not want County Line Road to become a Cross Creek."
But some New Tampa residents aren't happy, saying traffic flows both ways.
"We all live together and work together," said Joyce Clayton, of Cross Creek. "Everyone has traffic issues, no matter which county we live in."
Some were under the impression that Pasco would connect the two roads after State Road 56 to the north is extended to connect to Mansfield. That move will ease traffic on County Line Road.
However, Parikh said while he would be open to revisiting the issue then, he would need a traffic study showing that Mansfield could handle the extra cars - something he said he doubts.
"It is only two lanes, and there is no possibility for expansion. I have to really worry about what impact it is going to create," Parikh said.
Jerry Lynn, who sits on the Meadow Pointe taxing district board, concurred.
"The traffic on Mansfield Boulevard would be a burden," he said. "It just can't support that type of traffic or volume."
Parikh said when he first saw the plans about three years ago, he said it would never work. He said he requested several times that Kinnan Street connect to a different road, Meadow Pointe Boulevard, which can and most likely will be widened, but his pleas were ignored.
Campbell, Hillsborough's transportation director, said the Kinnan Street project was a part of a grand master plan between Meadow Pointe and the Live Oak Preserve developments designed to ease congestion. The county required the developers of Live Oak Preserve to build and pay for Kinnan Street as part of their plans.
There's nothing Hillsborough can do about Pasco's position, he said, and even if there was, he's not sure the county would take any action. Instead, he points to Hillsborough's efforts to make traffic flow better for motorists from both counties.
"We are getting ready to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to widen Bruce B. Downs to eight lanes, and a good portion of traffic on that road is coming in and out of Pasco County," Campbell said. "We in Hillsborough County are obviously making an investment to (ease) the traffic that occurs in Pasco by widening Bruce B. Downs."
About 40,000 cars a day travel on Bruce B. Downs between County Line Road and Cross Creek Boulevard, he said, adding, "by and large, most of this traffic is coming from Pasco."
Currently, there are only two roads running the length of New Tampa: Bruce B. Downs and Morris Bridge Road, Campbell said. Kinnan Street was supposed to be a third. It now helps some local drivers get from point to point, but if Pasco officials get their way, it may always be a dead end.
Dong-Phuong Nguyen can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 269-5312.