It was no surprise, then, that when District 7 Tampa City Councilman Luis Viera held his second New Tampa Town Hall Nov. 16, with Hillsborough County District 5 (countywide) commissioner Ken Hagan, discussions about traffic dominated the conversation.
Whether it was the right-hand turn off Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. onto Cross Creek Blvd., the connection of Kinnan St. in Cross Creek to Mansfield Blvd. in Meadow Pointe, the construction on BBD or even residents speeding along Kinnan St., local residents gathered at The Venetian Events Center at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church on Cross Creek Blvd. wanted to know what solutions they could expect.
Even New Tampa’s East-West connector roadway (E-W Rd.) project that was effectively killed in 2008 by the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority, got some run, thanks to the first speaker of the night, William Martello. A 15-year New Tampa resident, Martello lamented the failed E-W Rd. project.
That project, which evolved into basically a public-private partnership (P3) venture, was a 3-mile toll road that would have connected New Tampa Blvd. in West Meadows through Tampa Palms Areas 3 and 5 to a new interchange on Interstate 275.
The project was nixed due to the objections of residents in both West Meadows and Tampa Palms, and fear of high tolls. Though dormant for years, the E-W Rd. remains in the Tampa-Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)’s long-range plan.
Long-time local resident Jim Davison — who has run unsuccessfully for City Council against Viera and for the County Commission against Hagan, said the city or one of its affiliates is taking another look at the feasibility and affordability of the project. Davison hinted that he had a plan, which he will reveal after the holidays, that would show the city how it could pay for both the E-W Rd. and light rail for a mere tax increase of half a cent.
Hagan has been a proponent of the E-W Rd., and said he would like to see the proposal rise from the ashes and get another look.
Other options to relieve congestion on Cross Creek Blvd., Martello suggested, would be widening Morris Bridge Rd. northbound starting at Cross Creek, although widening it southbound is a near impossibility.
Martello also suggested extending Cross Creek through Morris Bridge to US 301 in Thonotosassa.
Hagan confessed to never hearing anyone ever suggest that idea before, but said he would look into it.
Naturally, the connection of Kinnan St. to Mansfield Blvd. in Meadow Pointe came up, although it did not dominate the discussion, due to complaints about several other roads in the area.
One female speaker, who did not give her name, asked Viera and Hagan what was being done behind the scenes to get Kinnan connected to Mansfield, which many say will ease traffic on BBD and help local businesses.
Viera and Hagan had little new to offer. Truth is, at the moment, the connection lies in the hands of Pasco County, which has commissioned a study to determine if melding Mansfield and Kinnan is worthwhile. According to Pasco County commissioner Mike Moore, most of the Pasco residents he has heard from are opposed to the connection because of the potential of increased traffic.
The Pasco study also is looking at two other connections between Wesley Chapel and New Tampa through K-Bar Ranch, but none can be done as quickly, nor would provide the relief for BBD, or the convenience, that a Kinnan-Mansfield connection would offer. That study is supposed to be completed by the end of this year.
“Kinnan has always been planned to open up,’’ Hagan said. “Pasco said that as soon as (Mansfield) was completed to Wiregrass, it would be connected. They reneged on that.”
Hagan, who spearheaded a $250,000 commitment by Hillsborough’s BOCC to build the connection, even suggested looking into using eminent domain to get the roads connected.
“We are doing whatever we can,’’ Hagan said.
Speaking on Kinnan, K-Bar Ranch resident April Ingram may be one of those in New Tampa opposed to the connection unless safeguards are put in place.
She gave an impassioned plea for drivers along Kinnan St. to watch their speeds, and for the enforcement of traffic laws. Ingram said she and her 9-year-old son fear walking or biking around that area of New Tampa.
“We have almost been mowed down several times on Kinnan,” she said. “I’ve seen cars driving 50 mph through here. I live here so I can go outside, with my son, to ride bikes, to walk. And every day, I am scared to death we are going to be hit by a car.”
Although no one else spoke on this topic, a few people in the room nodded their heads.
Afterwards, another woman came up to Ingram to tell her she totally agreed. She said sometimes, she too wonders, “Is somebody going to die today?”
Ingram also criticized the drivers trying to make a right turn onto Cross Creek from BBD for cutting off other drivers and essentially creating a second turn lane that backs up traffic all the way past the Hunter’s Green entrance.
A USF employee, Ingram said she now takes Morris Bridge Rd. home (instead of the BBD exit off I-75) because, “it can take 40 minutes trying to take a right onto Cross Creek.”
Ingram thinks a few tickets might end the problem, but has been disappointed to see a lack of enforcement by the Tampa Police Department. Hagan noted that he was stuck in that same traffic on his way to the town hall.
Viera said the city is currently studying the lights at the busy intersection in hopes of resolving the traffic build-up.
New Tampa resident Jeffrey Blank was on Ingram’s side as well.
“I’m from New York and New Jersey, so I’m used to traffic in Manhattan,’’ Blank said. “That intersection? It makes Manhattan look good.”
Blank’s solution? Think ahead.
“Why don’t the county and city account for the traffic new developments are going to bring (before approving them), instead of waiting until it’s too late?,” he asked.
It might have been the best question of the night.