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County Commission Addresses Transportation at Feb. 1 Meeting

The pre-General Election message about Hillsborough County’s plans for constructing the $51.5 million Citrus Park Drive extension?

It’s breaking ground the summer of 2017.

The post-election message?

It probably ain’t happening this year.

At an Oct. 25 meeting hosted by the Westchase Community Association, County Commissioner Sandra Murman, running for reelection on the November ballot, and Hillborough County Public Works Director John Lyons assured attendees that the repaving of Westchase neighborhood roads and construction of the Citrus Park Drive extension would begin in 2017-2018. Residents were informed that a list of projects had been approved and that a financing plan for them would be voted on early in January.

The timetable has changed.

Speaking with WOW in mid-January Lyons stated nothing would be happening in 2017.

Westchase neighborhood road repaving, outside of gated neighborhoods and West Park Village, would likely be tackled in 2018.

One piece of good news? Lyons stated that Countryway Boulevard between Race Track Road and Linebaugh Avenue, one of the most pothole-riddled roads in this corner of the county, will also be resurfaced in 2018.

While odds still appear to favor a 2018 start for the Citrus Park Drive extension, which would connect Countryway Boulevard near the UTB Library to Sheldon Road near the mall, it still has to clear a number of hurdles.

The first occurs during a Feb. 1 meeting of Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners, where the financing discussions, needed to fast-track big ticket construction projects, will begin rather than the original January date.

“Citrus Park Drive obviously has been designed and has been in the cue for a while,” said Lyons.

Staff is finishing up its design, incorporating new standards and seeking environmental permits. “The Citrus Park Drive extension really a shovel ready project,” he said. “The intent is, when we go to board, we want to deliver a work plan.”

The hitch, however, comes in its financing. The extension, estimated at over $51 million, would eat up virtually all of of 2017 funds the department has earmarked for lots of different projects. The projects are aimed at addressing backlogs in maintenance, safety and congestion fixes. “In the first cut we’re kind of putting safety first in the first five or six years,” said Lyons.

The construction of the Citrus Park Drive extension therefore ultimately hinges on borrowing to cover its costs. And barring a budget amendment, discussions of financing, Lyons stated, will also have to wait until the budget process this summer and the beginning of the new fiscal year in October 2017.

“If everything fell into place, we could probably start construction at the end of the calendar year,” said Lyons.

One project that has fallen off the county’s radar, however, is the widening of Linebaugh Avenue between Countryway Boulevard and Race Track Road to four lanes. While that project was moving forward a half decade ago, Lyons stated it was never brought up during discussions of the Go Hillsborough plan, on which the county’s current 10-year list of priorities is based. If congestion at the Linebaugh/Race Track Road intersection bothers you, you’re in for a long wait. It’s not likely to be funded for the next decade.

What other projects are on the county’s 10-year plan for Northwest Hillsborough?

Signal Improvements:

• Sheldon Road at Westwind Drive near Outback: signal with pedestrian enhancements and turn lanes ($1.1 million)
• Race Track Road and Reptron Boulevard: signal with pedestrian enhancements and turn lanes ($1 million)

Intersection Improvements:

• Gunn Highway at N. Mobley Road: intersection and turn lane improvements ($2 million)
• Walker Middle School: intersection and school access improvements ($1 million)

School Improvements

School improvements are aimed at adding paved shoulders, additional lighting and enhanced crosswalks to relieve congestion and enhance student safety. Nearby schools that will see such improvements include:

• Bellamy Elementary/Farnell Middle School: a 300-foot long and 12-foot wide turning lane on Nine Eagles Drive ($500,000)
• Walker IB Middle and Hammond Elementary: a 700-foot right turn lane at the school entrance ($1 million)

Congestion Relief

• A new four-lane road called the Citrus Park Drive extension, running between Sheldon Road and Countryway Boulevard. ($51.5 million)

Advanced Traffic Management Systems

• Gunn Highway from S. Mobley to Lutz Lake Fern Road: Retrofit six traffic signals and control cabinets with fiber optics to allow timing and coordination ($200,000)
• Hillsborough Avenue from Sheldon Road to Race Track Road: Retrofit seven traffic signals and control cabinets with fiber optics to allow timing and coordination ($200,000)
• South Mobley Road from Race Track Road to Gunn Highway: Retrofit one traffic signal and control cabinets with fiber optics to allow timing and coordination ($100,000)

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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