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Beltway plan on table again
By CATHERINE E. SHOICHET, MIKE BRASSFIELD and MICHAEL VAN SICKLER, Times Staff Writers
Published September 19, 2007
TAMPA - The beltway is back.
A four-county bypass that was shunted aside by controversy is now part of a new transportation plan for south Hillsborough. And it may soon be included in the county's long-term plan for growth.
"We're not the decisionmakers on this," county transportation planning manager Ned Baier said. "We're just recognizing it might happen."
But opponents of the beltway say its inclusion in the south county plan, which details recommended transportation improvements through 2050, is significant.
In the next few months, the Planning Commission and county commissioners are scheduled to consider adding it to the comprehensive plan, a blueprint for how the county will grow. That would allow the county to start setting aside land for the project, and could guide future funding.
"All this transportation plan does is open the floodgates for sprawl in south county," County Commissioner Rose Ferlita said. "It's a mess."
But whether any government agency actually will build the beltway remains to be seen.
The county can't afford it. The state Department of Transportation is focusing on improving existing highways. And the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority, which proposed the 70-mile road last year, is no longer actively seeking to build it.
The Planning Commission could begin considering the proposed south county plan as early as next month. But the agency has asked county commissioners to delay their review until early next year.
If the Planning Commission delays its review, Baier said the county will host more public meetings seeking feedback in October.
Other recommendations in the South County Transportation Plan include:
- 126 additional lane miles along existing roads and 119 additional lane miles of new construction
- New I-75 interchanges at Apollo Beach Boulevard and Rhodine Road
- A new east-west corridor from I-75 to U.S. 301 south of Sun City Center
- Two new bridge crossings over the Alafia River, at 78th Street and Valerie Lane
For more details about the proposed South County Transportation Plan, go to http://www.hillsboroughcounty.org/pgm/transportation/transystem/southcountytransplan.cfm