Based on the number of spirited debates that highlighted the first public meeting hosted by Pasco County planners last month at Pasco-Hernando State College (PHSC)’s Porter Campus at Wiregrass Ranch, the county’s year-long study looking at three possible roadway connection points between Wesley Chapel and New Tampa should be an interesting one.
The long-debated connection of Kinnan St. in New Tampa to Mansfield Blvd. in Meadow Pointe predictably drew the most conversation.
However, a crowd of more than 100 people milled about while also discussing the potential connection of Meadow Pointe Blvd. to a road in New Tampa’s K-Bar Ranch that is planned, as well as a connection between Wyndfields Blvd. and a road in K-Bar that is not yet approved by Hillsborough County but would eventually link Wesley Chapel to Morris Bridge Rd.
Pasco’s District 2 county commissioner Mike Moore made it clear at the outset that this was a Pasco County project, and that Hillsborough County and the City of Tampa both have nothing to do with it. Moore had met with then-City of Tampa District 7 City Council member Lisa Montelione last year in an attempt to get Kinnan-Mansfield connected, but the Tampa side declined to pay, or contribute to the cost, for any study, he said.
That didn’t stop a good number of New Tampa residents, including Montelione’s replacement on the City Council — New Tampa resident Luis Viera — from showing up to voice their opinions. Viera called the inability to connect the two roads, “government at its worst.”
K-Bar residents Joe and K.D. Ann Avinger were among the New Tampa residents on hand to voice their desire for a connection between Kinnan and Mansfield.
Avinger argued that the fears of Meadow Pointe II residents, probably the biggest opponents to the connection because of concerns about increased traffic on Mansfield, which runs through their community, were unfounded. He said he believes most of the traffic on busy Cross Creek Blvd. would bypass Kinnan and continue to Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. before turning north, especially since the widening of BBD could be completed before any connections are even made.
“Why would you get off a wider street, to get on a 35-mph street that is a further trip and puts you right back on the same road (BBD) you were going to anyway?,” he asked.
The Avingers, who have relatives in Wesley Chapel they like to visit, think the Kinnan-Mansfield connection would be more of a weekend convenience for shoppers going to the malls than a new path for commuters.
Proponents of that connection say it would improve public safety by creating another north-south route connecting New Tampa to Wesley Chapel in case of emergencies, as well as benefitting businesses on both sides.
Opponents cited an increase in dangerous traffic on Mansfield, which already is an important and busy artery in the mornings and afternoons connecting the area to four nearby Pasco schools — Sand Pine and Wiregrass elementaries, Long Middle School and Wiregrass Ranch High. If you add Pride Elementary in K-Bar just beyond where the connection would be made — a point of concern for some New Tampa parents — that’s five schools.
Dennis Smith, the chairman of the board of the Meadow Pointe I CDD, said that he would like to see the connection made.
“We are at loggerheads with Meadow Pointe II,’’ he said.
Smith said it is ridiculous that in the vast area between Livingston Ave. and Morris Bridge Rd., there is only one road — BBD —that goes north and south between New Tampa and Wesley Chapel. Even after listening to all of the debate, however, he still has little hope the connection will ever be made.
“This is my fifth time through this drill,’’ said Smith, who bought his home in 1998. “I’ve been around a long time, I’ve been active a long time and I know what’s going on and I have serious doubts this ever gets done.”
Moore said that of all the correspondence he has received at his office about Kinnan-Mansfield from his Pasco constituents, 70-80 percent of it is against a connection.
He added, however, that the proposed link between Meadow Pointe Blvd. and a planned road in K-Bar Ranch may prove to be a better option. He said it seemed to be favored by the majority of the (Pasco) people he talked to at the meeting.
Moore said he expects the study, for which Pasco is paying engineering firm AECOM $112,000 to conduct, should take about 6-7 months. The study’s findings will be presented at another public meeting.
“I think the important thing is we are now looking at all possible connections,” Moore said. “Hopefully, we can figure this all out.”