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Linebaugh Traffic Danger Postpones Reclaimed Waterline Work

Residents who were shocked by the recent and sudden lane changes on Linebaugh Avenue were not alone in thinking they could cause significant accidents.

It took one trip through the new construction zone to convince Jim Duncan of Hillsborough County Public Utilities that the abrupt lane shifts put both drivers and folks working on the road in danger.

Duncan ordered that the road reconfiguration and reclaimed waterline replacement project be put on hold until a safer fix was in place.

Duncan appeared at both the Westchase Community Development District (CDD) and Westchase Voting Members (VMs) meetings on April 4 to update residents about the project.

In mid-March Westra Construction cut out portions of the Linebaugh Avenue median as part of a multimillion dollar project to install a new reclaimed water line beneath eastbound lane’s bike lane and curb. The portion slated for replacement runs between Radcliffe Drive and the TECO easement along Westchase Elementary School.

Conversations with a Westra Construction representative in March led WOW to report in April that the cutouts were to hold equipment for the project. That, however, subsequently proved incorrect.

The cutouts were instead made for traffic re-routing. In the project’s original plans, one lane of Linebaugh eastbound was to be closed for the project’s duration, from nine months to a year. This one-lane approach was scrapped, Duncan pointed out, because of the dramatic impact it would have had on traffic.

The cut-outs as originally configured, however, are not long enough or tapered gradually enough to allow the safe movement of traffic back into designated lanes once vehicles are past the work zones. They were angled so sharply that the sudden vehicle shifts at high speeds threatened to cause numerous accidents. “It was a very dangerous situation,” said Duncan.

Duncan stated that he stopped the work and had the new lane change lines painted out. Work on the water line won’t resume until an amendment to the construction contract can be negotiated and approved. The existing cut-outs, he added, will be elongated and properly tapered to meet Florida Department of Transportation standards for safer lane shifts. Speed limits through the work zone will also be lowered by at least 10 miles per hour and signage will be added instructing vehicles to stay in their lanes.

Duncan reassured residents that upon completion of the project the Linebaugh medians would return to their previous appearance. “It’s temporary,” he stated. “It’s ugly, I’ll admit.”

He added that the temporary inconvenience of the cut-outs was still preferable to closing down an entire lane of eastbound traffic along Linebaugh for a year.

Duncan concluded by stating that work on the reclaimed line would restart in approximately two weeks, roughly in mid-April.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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