Riverview resident Jim Johnson looks over plans to increase HART bus service in the SouthShore area.

Riverview resident Jim Johnson looks forward with anticipation to the relief of southeast Hillsborough County’s congested roadways. He learned of a possible plan to help alleviate that congestion at the SouthShore Transit Study Reevaluation meeting held at SouthShore Regional Library and hosted by the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Johnson, who is also a board emeritus member of The Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce, has lived in Riverview since 1957 and has watched his community transform from a sleepy Tampa suburb to a booming metropolis.

“There was a time when you could take a nap on Highway 301, which was only two lanes, and not get hit,” he joked. That wouldn’t be recommended today.

A big fan of HART’s bus system, Johnson prefers keeping his car at home and leaving the driving to someone else. Looking at maps detailing possible expansion of the bus service, he is intrigued by the proposal.

“This looks promising,” he said.

The recommendations presented by consulting group Gannett Fleming recommended a five-phase process to increase bus service in Riverview, Gibsonton, Apollo Beach, Ruskin and Sun City Center.

In the first phase, Hwy. 301 and Hwy. 41 buses would offer increased frequency during peak times as well as Saturday service. A park-and-ride lot would also be constructed on Gibsonton Drive.

Each phase would build upon previous phases, adding additional routes and frequency. In phase five, two proposed high-speed ferries located in Gibsonton and Apollo Beach would quickly transport workers downtown.

Gannett Fleming consultant Jeanette Berk said mobility hubs could be constructed where people could park and share rides, where bike rentals would be available and where you could maybe get a cup of coffee while you are waiting for your bus.

“The idea is to create an area that is pleasant so people can connect with different modes of transportation,” she said.

All five phases come at an estimated price tag of more than $15 million dollars.

While these proposals might give some SouthShore residents hope for less congested roadways, these proposals must be approved by HART’s board and the funding secured.

For more about the SouthShore Transit Study and its findings, contact Sarah McKinley at the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization at 273-3774 or mckinleys@plancom.org.

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MIchelle Caceres has been writing for the Osprey Observer for seventeen years. She enjoys writing human interest pieces about inspiring members of the community who are working to better our community. She lives in FishHawk Ranch with her husband and recently became an empty-nester. When not writing, Michelle is serving her church community, reading and enjoying Florida's weather.