By Matt Wiley
Although the grand opening of the newly widened lanes of Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. north of I-75 a couple of miles south of the Pasco County line has been delayed past the initial completion date of the first of the year, representatives for Hillsborough County say that an official opening date has now been announced.
For the past several weeks, the smooth, newly paved and painted BBD lanes from I-75 north to Pebble Creek Dr. have been teasing drivers who have still been stuck in traffic, as the lanes lay unused on either side of the two lanes currently open in each direction, their access blocked by orange barrels.
“The lanes north of I-75 are set to open by January 21,” says Steve Valdez, spokesperson for the Hillsborough County Public Works department. “We’re still getting all of the new signals powered by TECO (Tampa Electric Co.) and calibrated with the City of Tampa’s computer system to make sure that they are timed correctly.”
The lanes were originally slated to open by or before January 1, but the sequencing of the new lights forced the County to delay the opening.
Valdez says that since the county’s traffic signals on BBD are computer-controlled, they have to be in sequence with the City’s computer system.
The remaining segment of the first phase of Hillsborough’s BBD widening project that is still under construction from I-75 south to Palm Springs Blvd. is scheduled to open to four lanes in each direction by the second week in February, although Valdez says there still will be aesthetic work to be done when the lanes open.
“But, we’re getting there,” he says.
Although new BBD lanes soon will be open, the more than $100-million expansion project that began in January of 2010 will begin its Phase 2 construction in 12-18 months. That phase will widen BBD to four lanes from Palm Springs Blvd. south to Bearss Ave. and is expected to take at least two years to complete, especially since two bridges south of Amberly Dr. in Tampa Palms also will have to be replaced.
In addition, the New Tampa Gateway Bridge, which will bridge over I-75 and connect New Tampa Blvd. in West Meadows to Commerce Park Blvd. in Tampa Palms, is currently on schedule to open concurrently with the new BBD lanes south of I-75 in February.