tampabay.com

Brandon Bypass is dead for now

East Hillsborough residents worried sprawl would follow.

By MICHAEL VAN SICKLER, Times Staff Writer
Published December 5, 2007


TAMPA - A proposed highway around Brandon got dumped from a key planning map on Tuesday, setting back its chances of getting built.

The road, called the Brandon Bypass, was to run from the southern section of Interstate 75 to Interstate 4 in eastern Hillsborough County.

Since 2004, the road existed only on a long-range planning map. Obscure to most residents, the map is used by transportation officials to set future priorities.

But this summer, residents became aware of the road when it appeared on a more prominent map setting transportation priorities in southern Hillsborough. Under new scrutiny, the road was criticized by some residents as being a Trojan horse for sprawl. Hundreds met in subsequent weeks to protest the project, forcing the county to shelve the newer map.

On Tuesday, the bypass was removed when the long-range map was revised by the county's Metropolitan Planning Organization, a 15-member board that sets transportation goals.

"We did the right thing," said Mark Sharpe, a Hillsborough County commissioner who sits on the board. "A road with that much swath being placed on that map without study really shouldn't be there. It caused too much consternation with the residents who lived there."

The board decided to study mobility options during the next 12 months and come back with other recommendations, such as adding a deck atop I-75. Sharpe said he doubted the bypass would return, but didn't rule out a similar corridor.

Residents, such as George Niemann from Dover, said they weren't going to ease up.

Niemann said agencies like the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority or the newly spawned Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority seemed eager to keep the bypass alive.

"We need to stay vigilant," Niemann said. "The supporters of the project who put it there will be back."

Michael Van Sickler can be reached at 813 226-3402 or mvansickler@sptimes.com.