Even as the ongoing road construction on Boyette Rd. in Riverview continues to test motorists’ patience on a daily basis, Hillsborough County confirmed its plans of widening a 3.1 mile stretch of nearby Bell Shoals Rd.
Close to 300 residents attended a public meeting in connection with the project held at the Boyette Springs Elementary School multi-purpose room.
Project manager, William “Reg” Alford, began the presentation with a brief introduction, after which he asked residents to seek out one of three county officials on hand to explain the project and answer questions.
The start of the $19 million project, mostly funded by Newland Communities, is slated for January, 2014.
“The county is acquiring the right of way and funding the cost of a new bridge over the Alafia River, but all other design and construction costs are be funded by Newland Communities, which also will hire the contractor,” Alford said.
Bell Shoals Rd. will be widened from just south of the Alafia River to north of Bloomingdale Ave., from a two-lane, undivided rural road to a four-lane, divided urban facility with two 12 ft. lanes for vehicles, a 4 ft. bike lane and sidewalks in both directions.
Phase one of the project will start with the expansion of the existing bridge over the Alafia River, followed by water, sewer and electrical utility relocation which will also require the removal of most of the age-old oak trees now enjoyed by many.
“The new design will increase the level of service along Bell Shoals Road, accommodating higher traffic volumes while maximizing safety along the corridor and will also improve the traffic signals at Glenhaven Dr., Rosemead Ln. and Bloomingdale Ave.,”Alford said.
Frank Harned, who has lived off Bell Shoals Rd. for more than 18 years, expressed concerns about safety as well as the county’s approach to the project, such as the lack of notification.
“This is the first time I have heard about this project which seems to be all but decided to happen as planned without much consideration by local residents,” Harned said.
Indian Hills resident, Alis Foran, was also concerned about the proposed design, which will not allow her and her neighbors to turn left onto Bell Shoals in order to travel north.
“We will be forced to turn right and cross to the far left lane to make a U-turn,” Foran said. “I am also very concerned about the increased traffic at the entrance of our subdivision, which is also a school bus stop.”
While she agreed with the need for road improvements, Shoals Landing resident Sherri Rehder was disappointed in the design’s apparent lack of consideration for residents’ needs and their safety when she said, “The county is talking about improvements, but their plan doesn’t seem to give any consideration to the very people it’s supposed to help.”
River Woods residents have organized a public protest alongside Bell Shoals Rd. urging fellow residents and motorists to voice their concerns over the county’s current design plan.
“If this project moves forward as it is we will lose our turn lane into our subdivision which was paid for by the developer seven years ago,” River Woods Home Owners Association president Ken Mackenzie said. “The current design plan also takes away our chance to turn left onto Bell Shoals.”
Construction is to be finished within 18 to 24 months as the road work itself and lane closers will not occur until work is completed on Boyette Rd., which is expected to be finished by April 2014.
For more information, visit www.hillsboroughcounty.org, or call 272-5275.