By Tamas Mondovics

Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), The Planning Commission (TPC) and HDR Engineering presented local stakeholders the initial findings of a recent land use and transportation study along major Brandon area corridors.

The joint effort focused on communities between State Road 60 (Brandon Boulevard) and Bloomingdale Ave. and I-75 and Dover Rd., chosen for its characteristics very similar to many other areas of the County.

“The study was a joint pilot project between our agencies to better coordinate the envisioned land use pattern with planned transportation improvements along major corridors,” said MPO Executive Director Melissa Zornitta during the meeting held at the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce, 330 Pauls Drive in Brandon.

The five-month, $175,000 study project was led by the MPO and TPC, with the partnership of Hillsborough County’s Development Services and Public Works, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART), and Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).

Brandon’s east-west corridors of Brandon Blvd, Lumsden, and Bloomingdale, which connect much residential and commercial development to I-75, and experience a lot of congestion with several crash hot spots were all surveyed.

“Options for maintaining, improving mobility and safety for Brandon area communities are becoming increasingly limited,” Zornitta said.

Senior planner, Jay Collins pointed to a number of challenges including limited space for development, and to opportunities such as, reuse of vacant sites and buildings.

MPO principal planner Sarah McKinley spoke about congestion along all major corridors within the study area, limited right-of-way for improvements and connectivity to local streets, suggesting a transit-oriented development and completion of current road widening and intersection projects.

Such projects include the Bell Shoals Rd. widening from Bloomingdale Ave. to Boyette Rd. from 2 to 4 lanes, a 36-month construction scheduled to begin mid-2017. Resurfacing Bloomingdale Ave., and the Lithia Pinecrest/Lumsden/Bell Shoals/Durant, intersection improvement starting in mid-2017, a 34 month construction, was also mentioned.

The now infamous Lithia Pinecrest Rd., widening, with its estimated at $97 million, also discussed.
By 2040 the roadway is expected to reach traffic volumes more than 50 percent beyond its capacity at 2 lanes.

The Federal “flexible” funding is limited to about $16 million annually for all projects in Hillsborough County and its cities. Officials said that relying on this source would mean funding no other projects such as Gibsonton Dr., Big Bend Rd., and HART bus replacements.

Residents have a chance to comment and examine the study results and findings by visiting www.planhillsborough.org.