An editorial by Gary Nager
Since the day a couple of months ago when I found out that the “completion” of the widening of Segment A of Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. doesn’t mean we now have four lanes available in both directions between Pebble Creek Dr. and Palm Springs Blvd. in Tampa Palms, I have been waiting for it: the inevitable bottlenecks snarling traffic for an hour or more on New Tampa’s primary arterial roadway.
And, although I was able to avoid the biggest tie-up in recent memory on I-75 (see page 12) on March 21, it was only a day later that I experienced what I’ve been fearing since I first found out that the BBD lanes that go under I-75 (between Commerce Palms Blvd. and Dona Michelle Dr.) would not be completed until the I-75 widening project is finished — at the end of 2013.
I left my office on Amberly Dr. in Tampa Palms a little after 5 p.m. and, although I heard there was another accident on I-75 itself at around that time, I was able to negotiate my way through the bottleneck I had been afraid of before I reached I-75 in a fairly reasonable period of time. A different story unfolded, however, as I continued to make my way north towards the entrance to Flatwoods Park on BBD.
Shortly after passing the 7-11 gas station on BBD, the traffic came to a dead stop and then crawled forward at less than a mile an hour. I assumed the snarl somehow must have been the result of the reported I-75 accident.
But, it wasn’t. In fact, I saw no accident, stalled car or police activity at all anywhere between Highwoods Preserve Pkwy. and Pebble Creek Dr. It was just a lumbering, slow crawl that resulted in it taking me more than 40 minutes to drive less than six miles!
The thing I can’t understand is why Hillsborough County (the governmental entity responsible for the widening of BBD) would force the people of New Tampa — who have been stuck in traffic on BBD since before the turn of the millennium — to continue to suffer this much while waiting for the other portions of our primary north-south route to be widened.
And, as you long-time readers know, the portion of BBD between Palms Springs Blvd. and Bearss Ave. will actually be the next segment to be widened — and that portion won’t be done until at least the end of 2014. Worse still is that the bottleneck going north from Pebble Creek Dr. to the Pasco County line won’t be completed until at least 2015, which means that the traffic jam I sat in last week will be repeated on an ongoing basis for at least two more years!
Although I know the county had to widen BBD in three segments because of the cost, it just never made any sense to me to funnel four lanes down to two for any reason, especially with only a few feet of pavement marked “Merge” with which to negotiate that funnel but, as the saying goes, “It is what it is.” I think that instead of opening all four lanes in each direction, the county should’ve kept one lane closed in each direction until the other two segments could be completed. It’s just common sense that it’s easier to only have to move over one lane than it is to merge two full lanes.
Unfortunately for those of us who have lived and/or worked in this area the last 20 years, it doesn’t seem as though common sense has ever been part of the county’s equation for widening BBD — which means that the bottom line is that it will be quite a bit longer before our fantasy of a new and improved BBD becomes a reality.