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Officials see need for roads firsthand

Traffic makes county commissioners late for a New Tampa town hall meeting about traffic.

By SUSAN THURSTON

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 8, 2000


TAMPA -- Residents had little trouble Thursday convincing county commissioners of the need for new and improved roads in New Tampa.

Commissioners got a firsthand taste of the traffic.

They arrived late for a town hall meeting in New Tampa because of traffic on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

It took newly elected Stacey Easterling one hour and seven minutes to get there from downtown, and Commissioner Thomas Scott didn't get there at all.

"You all have a terrible problem out here," Commissioner Ronda Storms said, adding that "pounding my fist came to mind as I drove here."

Commissioner Jan Platt called the trip a "good lesson" for the board about the area's transportation problems.

About 250 people attended the meeting at Wharton High School to voice their concerns about the community and plead for help. As expected, traffic woes dominated much of the discussion.

"Is the widening of Bruce B. Downs going to start this month or next month?" said Doug Bartley, president of the Hunter's Green Community Association, to audience applause.

Planners promised that improvements are on the way; they will just take awhile. And even if the work moves forward as planned, the area's needs far exceed the amount of money available.

It would take $68-million to do all of the projects needed, but only $28-million has been identified, said Ron Rotella, a consultant representing Mayor Dick Greco.

"We have to come together . . . to solve transportation problems in Hillsborough County," he said.

Many in the audience said they supported a 5-cent gas tax to pay for improvements.

Jim Davison of Hunter's Green begged the board to let voters decide.

The town hall meeting marked the first in New Tampa.

Commissioner Jim Norman proposed it as a means to give the seven-member board a better idea of the community's needs.

Don Nevins of Pebble Creek said he hoped the county would start addressing issues like street lights, bike paths and sidewalks.

"For too many years, this area has been neglected," he said. "It's time for you to take notice."

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