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Shortcut may give motorists relief

The half-mile extension of Highwoods Preserve Parkway to New Tampa Boulevard, which should open shortly, will give residents an alternate route to Interstate 75.

By SUSAN THURSTON

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 1, 2001


WEST MEADOWS -- The drive to jobs, stores and restaurants will get a little easier for many people in New Tampa with the opening of a shortcut between West Meadows and Richmond Place.

The developer is putting the final touches on a half-mile extension of Highwoods Preserve Parkway to New Tampa Boulevard. Once completed, it will give motorists another way to Interstate 75 without getting on busy Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

"It will bypass a lot of traffic," said Herb Soendker, head of the Dove's Landing Homeowners Association in West Meadows. "I'm sure in the morning that will be the escape route. We've been trapped."

The cut-through is expected to relieve traffic jams on New Tampa Boulevard at Bruce B. Downs, the only access to West Meadows. During rush hour, cars often have to wait several lights to turn right to exit.

Over time, the road will likely become the preferred route for West Meadows motorists heading to and from the interstate. The intersection at Highwoods Preserve Parkway and Bruce B. Downs can handle considerably more traffic than the one at New Tampa Boulevard. It has twice the number of lanes.

Although West Meadows stands to gain the most, other communities will benefit from less traffic on Bruce B. Downs. Residents of Richmond Place also will have a faster route to the Publix shopping center near West Meadows.

"It's good news," said Larry Brindley, who represents homeowners in Richmond Place. "I think it's going to help everyone."

The project marks one of the first major connector roads in New Tampa. It had been on the books for years, but became a priority last year when Mobley Homes of Florida bought West Meadows from Atlantic Gulf Communities Corp.

The cut-through cost the developer about $550,000. It curves around environmentally sensitive wetlands on the west side of West Meadows.

Construction crews finished the striping this week and are waiting on the street lights before they open the road, said Harry Lerner, president of Westshore Development Group, which manages West Meadows. The road has sidewalks and shoulder space for biking.

In the next few months, the developer will plant about 350 trees along the road to replace ones removed for construction. The developer promised to replant the trees after getting permission from the city in December to remove more than 50 percent of the trees.

Community leaders in West Meadows and Richmond Place said most residents are eager for the road, despite fears that it could create more traffic through the neighborhoods. They want better access to such places as Intermedia, Muvico and The Walk shopping center under construction in Highwoods Preserve.

"I think it will really help the community," Soendker said. "I'm looking forward to it."

- Susan Thurston can be reached at (813) 226-3463.

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