By Matt Wiley
Construction has been steadily increasing along Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. in New Tampa between E. Bearss Ave. and Palm Springs Blvd. in Tampa Palms (also known as BBD “Segment A”) during the past several months. However, the intersection of BBD and E. Bearss Ave. won’t be completely improved when the BBD “Segment A” project has been completed.
While the intersection will receive some improvements when BBD is widened (which won’t be until 2017; see below), a future project will still be needed provide additional relief through the 1.8-mile corridor between Livingston Ave., east on Bearss Ave. through the intersection with BBD and south to E. Fletcher Ave.
So, even after the latest $55-million, 3.5-mile segment of BBD widening has been completed (tentatively scheduled to be finished in the Spring of 2017), and BBD is four lanes in both directions from Bearss Ave. north to Regents Park Dr. in Pebble Creek, more construction is still likely to be needed in the corridor — but, the Livingston-Fletcher project isn’t yet funded in Hillsborough County’s current transportation improvement plan.
During the April 1 Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting in downtown Tampa, the Board appointed Raleigh, NC-based Kimley-Horn & Associates to perform an $800,000 study to determine the three best alternatives for improvements to not only the BBD/Bearss Ave. intersection that snarls rush hour traffic daily, but also for the entire length of the Livingston-Fletcher project.
Project manager Gordana Jovanovic says that the study, which started in early April, will take between 4-6 months to complete the field work (traffic counts, survey, soil data, utilities, etc.), after which the company will put together the best alternatives for future improvements that will be presented to the BOCC and to the public for input during public meetings that will be scheduled toward the end of this year.
Jovanovic says that the segments for widening BBD were determined several years before construction initially began on the project by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). The project to improve the BBD/Bearss intersection, she says, would make additional improvements to boost traffic flow between Livingston Ave. and BBD, south to E. Fletcher Ave., which is a major cause of congestion, especially during peak traffic hours.
She adds that once the improvement alternatives for the entire project have been determined, the county will go about seeking funding.
“The funding sources (for the Livingston Ave.-Fletcher project) haven’t been determined yet,” Jovanovic says. “The source really depends on the alternatives (found by the study).”
During the next several months, Kimley-Horn work crews will be gathering data throughout the corridor, conducting traffic counts, as well as studying the environmental impacts of altering the intersection, Jovanovic says.
There’s a possibility that the two projects could end up being worked on concurrently, she explains, but that all depends upon which alternatives are deemed the best for the entire project and how quickly funding for that alternative can be obtained. “We have to determine our needs list and our ‘wish list,’ as far as the alternatives go,” she says.