Lithia Pinecrest Road Widening Public Meeting Draws Crowds

Lithia Pinecrest Rd.Hundreds attended a recent public meeting concerning the proposed widening of approximately an 11 mile section of Lithia Pinecrest Rd. from its current two travel lane roadway to a six travel lane roadway, affecting the Brandon, Bloomingdale and Lithia communities from S.R. 60 in Brandon to C.R. 39. Local residents who showed up at the Palmetto Club at FishHawk Ranch to hear more extensively about the project had the opportunity to view maps, elevations, a video presentation of the proposed change, as well as talk to county officials on-hand to address questions and concerns. Hillsborough County, in cooperation with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), has been working on preparing a Project Development and Environment (PDE) Study to consider the proposed widening of Lithia Pinecrest Rd., which according to county officials and many local residents, at this point, is simply not sufficient to handle the traffic. “Portions of this roadway currently operate below the county’s adopted minimum acceptable level-of-service standard,” said Hillsborough County Engineering Division Public Works Center Project Manager William Alford. Alford explained that the meeting was strictly about gathering information and that the improvements are intended to accommodate both existing and future traffic volumes as well as enhance motorist safety and reduce emergency response times.  But while area residents in general agree that something needs to be done, just as many were unsatisfied due to the lack of information offered by the county. For starters, county officials were faced with complaints that the video presentation of the project seemed to be short on facts. The hot topic that seemed to concern most included the lack of traffic lights planned for the Valrico portion of the project.  “I don’t see how they can talk about safety. It is difficult to turn onto Lithia Pinecrest going north now. How is that going to be better trying to cross three lanes and then merge in to three lanes of traffic without a traffic light,” said Gene Will of Valrico, who has lived on Hummingbird Ln. for the past 40 years and is very concerned about being able to turn northbound onto Lithia Pinecrest once the six lane road project is completed. For many residents the small but problematic as well as infamous, Bell Shoals Road and Lithia Pinecrest intersection just a few yards south of Lumsden was the worry of the day-although not on the agenda for the meeting-the proposed road widening plan will include the turning Bell Shoals Road, into a cul-de-sac, cutting traffic flow from it to merge onto Lithia Pinecrest. That is a big problem for Sue Curd with Curd and Associates who feels that the change would choke or at least alter the volume that her business generates. “I will lose business,” she said. Jim Barfield, also a Valrico resident for the past four decades whose wife Jean became Honorary Mayor of Brandon in1996, was disturbed by the fact that the County took this long to decide on thinking about the roads. “The County has been passing out building permits to developers for years. Now they have a problem on their hands and rightly; nobody is happy,” Barfield said.  Good, bad or ugly, the meeting seemed to have accomplished its purpose and as expected could and would not please everyone while provided an opportunity to hear or to be heard. One thing is sure. This project will be done and Lithia Pinecrest Road will be a six lane major artery for commuters even if its success remains to be seen. For ore information about the project or for project updates, public comments and concerns please visit www.lpcstudy.com.