By Matt Wiley
Traveling south on Morris Bridge Rd. from S.R. 54, it’s hard to imagine that there are thousands of homes planned for developments on both sides of the two-lane road (both north and south of the Pasco County line) that currently looks out over mostly rural and agricultural land. However, even with a massive amount of development on the horizon, there aren’t many improvements in Pasco County’s long-range transportation plan for the road that connects Wesley Chapel and Temple Terrace.
On the Wesley Chapel side alone, the River Landing Master Planned Unit Development (MPUD) was approved back in 2010 for nearly 2,000 residential units and 179,000 sq. ft. of commercial space and borders Morris Bridge Rd. to the west, while the Two Rivers development borders the road to the east. Two Rivers was approved in 2008 for 6,400 single- and multi-family residential units, as well as 630,000 sq. ft. of commercial space and 2.67 million sq. ft. of office space for a large employment center.
In addition, New River, Meadow Pointe, Wiregrass Ranch and Avalon Park West also continue to grow, adding more traffic to Morris Bridge Rd. is one of the main north-south arteries in the area. Even so, there are no immediate plans to widen the road in Pasco County’s “Mobility 2040” long-range transportation plan.
Pasco transportation planning manager Jim Edwards explains that the regional model for the area does not show the traffic volume to necessitate widening, but he also notes that the LRTP is re-examined every five years. Edwards explains that there currently are no county improvements scheduled for Morris Bridge Rd. through 2029, except for intersection improvements at S.R. 54. But, he emphasizes, the plan will be constantly re-evaluated.
“Traffic accidents could necessitate safety-related improvements based upon the types of accidents that occur,” Edwards says.
Edwards explains that currently, between 8,000-10,000 vehicles traverse Morris Bridge Rd. between S.R. 54 and County Line Rd. per day and that by 2040, that number is expected to double.
Additional traffic relief on Morris Bridge Rd. will come in the form of several other north-south connections between Hillsborough and Pasco Counties, Edwards says, citing the dead end at Kinnan St. in New Tampa with Mansfield Blvd. in Wesley Chapel, as well as a possible future connection between Meadow Pointe Blvd. into K-Bar.
Also in the Pasco LRTP are plans to extend both Chancey Rd. to Morris Bridge Rd. and Oldwoods Ave. in Meadow Pointe through Morris Bridge Rd. to Coats Rd. in Zephyrhills. However, none of these plans mean any widening for Morris Bridge—at least not yet.
Although Pasco has few plans for Morris Bridge Rd. in the coming years, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is in negotiations with landowners between Meadow Pointe Blvd. and U.S. 301 to obtain the right-of-way necessary for the 6.7 mile extension of S.R. 56 east into Zephyrhills, an estimated $60 million project. Funding for that project is not programmed until fiscal year 2017-18. Edwards says that as development continues along that corridor, traffic studies will be conducted.
“There can always be safety improvements that come on line over time, including left turn lanes off (Morris Bridge Rd.) at intersecting streets,” Edwards explains. “But, these would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. If development occurs that accesses one of the intersecting streets (with Morris Bridge Rd.), the developer would be required to do a study to determine if intersection improvements are needed. It’s all a complicated ‘what if’ game, but that is the nature of our business.”
The Other Side
While construction continues to widen Cross Creek Blvd. and homes continue to sprout up within the K-Bar Ranch Development of Regional Impact (DRI) in New Tampa, there also aren’t many plans for improvements to Morris Bridge Rd. in Hillsborough County’s “Imagine 2040” long-range transportation plan.
Just last month, current K-Bar Ranch developer M/I Homes applied to the City of Tampa for a rezoning that will allow for the construction of an additional 1,400 homes, as well as the construction of an east-west road within the DRI that will make a connection with Morris Bridge Rd.
Although development is not as imminent in New Tampa between Cross Creek Blvd. and County Line Rd., other than in K-Bar Ranch, the population and amount of traffic in that area still is expected to grow during the next few decades.
Hillsborough County Planning Commission senior planner Bud Whitehead explains that the most recent traffic count numbers are from 2014 and show that an average number of about 13,000 vehicles travel between I-75 at the Fletcher Ave. interchange and Cross Creek Blvd. each day. Between Cross Creek Blvd. and the Pasco County line, there’s an average of about 7,641 vehicles using the road each day.
Whitehead adds that the number of vehicles using Morris Bridge Rd. is expected to grow to 14,000 vehicles south of Cross Creek Blvd. and 21,000 vehicles north of Cross Creek Blvd. The population along the road is expected to grow from 13,375 to more than 16,800.
However, despite this anticipated growth, Morris Bridge Rd. still would be operating within its capacity.
Like Pasco County, Hillsborough County also updates its plan every five years.
For more information about these long-range transportation plans, please visit Mobility2040Pasco.com and PlanHillsborough.com.