As the final segment of the massive Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. widening project chugs towards its completion, transportation planners are looking at a few other ways to help with traffic flow at some New Tampa hotspots.
District 7 Tampa City Councilman Luis Viera, whose district covers the city portions of New Tampa, says there are multiple projects in the exploratory stages that could provide some relief at busy area intersections, and another that will add a light at the site of the new fire station being built on County Line Rd.
“Some of these could really improve traffic for New Tampa residents,” Viera says.
The most notable of these proposals is a pre-design study — which determines if a certain design is possible — currently underway to potentially add a third left turn lane where westbound Cross Creek Blvd. drivers turn south onto southbound Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. (see map). According to the project report, there are currently four alternatives being studied.
One would build a third left turn onto southbound BBD, while keeping the two lanes that currently cross over BBD to New Tampa Blvd. and into West Meadows, and the lane that turns northbound onto BBD.
A second option would be to extend the existing dual left turn lanes almost back to Dayflower Dr., to prevent the common bottlenecking that occurs during peak travel hours.
“We need to figure out which option would work best,’’ says Jean Duncan, the city’s director of transportation and stormwater services.
Viera, who travels along that stretch of Cross Creek Blvd. from his Hunter’s Green home, says he has been pushing for one of these two options since being elected to the City Council last November. “I’m hopeful that the study can conclude that a third left-hand turn lane is a viable idea,’’ he says.
A third option would be to convert one of the two lanes that cross over BBD into the third turn lane, while the fourth option builds a third left turn lane, and takes away one of the two lanes crossing BBD and converts it to a second right turn lane for those trying to turn right (north) on BBD towards Pebble Creek.
There are currently no plans, however, to add another right turn lane on BBD for those turning east on Cross Creek Blvd., another thorny spot for rush hour travelers. Viera says that problem, however, may be mitigated by studying and tweaking traffic signal patterns.
A New Tampa Mobility Enhancement Project, a $306,000 study, is looking into ways to maximize the benefits of the Advanced Traffic Management System (ATMS), which uses real-time data from things like speed sensors and cameras to determine if any action needs to be taken (light timings, re-routing, etc.) to improve and enhance traffic flow.
When Cross Creek Blvd. and BBD were widened, Duncan says, the intersections were built with the ATMS, which included upgraded cabinets that house the guts of the signal system, and uses fiber optics instead of copper. New Tampa is fortunate, she says, because 3/4 of the city is still using the less effective copper-wired cabinets, which are DOS-based and not as intelligent.
“New Tampa was one of the first to get it,” she said, adding that the city is working with the Florida Department of Transportation to upgrade the rest of the city over the next five years. Duncan says the city actively manages traffic signals, whereas the county does not.
Three intersections in New Tampa are being considered.
The first is at the junction of Compton Dr. and Commerce Palms Dr. in Tampa Palms, where a stop sign on Compton Dr. and another across the street at the B.J.s Wholesale Club handle a busy flow of traffic. The second is just down the road at the intersection of Compton Dr. and Tampa Palms Blvd., where traffic currently is monitored by a four-way stop.
Also being considered for a roundabout is the intersection of Highwoods Preserve Pkwy. and Highwoods Palm Way, which runs through the Highwoods Preserve Corporate Campus, a mile or so from BBD.
Duncan says that there is a big national movement towards roundabouts, which have proven to be cheaper, safer for drivers and pedestrians and more sustainable than lighted intersections.
Lastly, the city is working on adding a traffic signal at County Line Rd. and Trout Creek Dr., to accommodate the needs of the new Fire Station 23.
Viera says he has been told the fire station will open by the end of the 2018, and the first design submittal and review for the signal has already taken place and is on an accelerated pace to be completed at the same time the fire station is expected to open.