By Brian Bokor
Work accomplished to date on the 3.1-mile stretch of Bell Shoals Rd. from Boyette Rd. north to Bloomingdale Ave. has been primarily associated with land clearing, utility relocation and retention pond construction necessary to accommodate the new four-lane divided highway. But more changes are ahead on this major project.
Drivers traveling from Boyette Rd. towards Bloomingdale Ave. will notice the northbound Alafia bridge addition, including bike lanes and sidewalks, now under construction. Once this northbound portion of the bridge has been completed, traffic will shift and the existing southbound lanes will undergo similar renovations. Expect bridgework to be completed mid to late 2022.
The large cleared area north of the bridge on the east side will become one of several retention ponds necessary for drainage of excess water runoff created by the project, with additional areas located adjacent to the south of Three Bulls plaza, between Rosemead Ln. and Jiffy Lube, as well as north of the Bloomingdale Ave. intersection on the west side.
When asked why so many ponds were needed and what the estimated timeframe was from this point going forward, Hillsborough County Design Manager of the Capital Programs Department Sandra González, P.E. told me the retention areas were a statutory requirement.
“The ponds are designed to hold a certain amount of rainfall that is determined by the amount of impervious area (asphalt and concrete) that is being constructed,” she said. “The project began on schedule in late 2018 and is set to be completed on schedule by December 2022.”
An idea of what a typical cross section of the new road will look like when complete can be seen between Bloom Hill Ave. and Three Bulls plaza, where the majority of engineering work is done. The design features 6 ft. wide sidewalks, curbs and gutters; 4 ft. wide bike paths; and two 12 ft. wide lanes on either side of a fully landscaped, raised center median.
The median from Glenhaven Dr. to Rosemead Ln. will be fully irrigated and maintained by the Bloomingdale Special Taxing District through a formal maintenance agreement with the county. This will allow the district control of landscaping upkeep and design, which is still in the formative stages. The median from Glenhaven Dr. south to Boyette Rd. will be nonirrigated and maintained by the county.
From Glenhaven Dr. north to Bloomingdale Ave., utility relocation is ongoing, with the challenges ahead focused around completing the remaining northbound lane sections, renovating the existing southbound sections and widening the four signalized intersections at Glenhaven Dr., Rosemead Ln., Starwood Ave. and Bloomingdale Ave. The project will taper from four lanes to two near the end of the project at Knowles Rd. north of Bloomingdale Ave. and will widen from two lanes to four for drivers heading south at the same location.
The speed limit will be 45 mph for most of the new stretch of road and will be reduced to 35 mph in the areas closer toward Bloomingdale Ave., with county officials yet to determine the fate of the recently removed red light camera at the Bloomingdale intersection.
Maps of each neighborhood entrance located along Bell Shoals Rd. in the work zone can be found by visiting HCFLGov.net/CountyProjects, clicking on ‘Government’ (top of page), then ‘County Projects’ and then ‘Highlighted CIP Projects,’ where you’ll find the link to the Bell Shoals Road Widening project with detailed maps available there for every community. Please contact Public Works at 635-5400 with any additional questions.
The Bloomingdale intersection will be expanded to include dual left-turn lanes, dual center-thru lanes and single right-turn lanes for drivers headed in either direction on Bell Shoals Rd., which should alleviate some congestion, along with the retiming of the traffic signals at Rosemead Ln. and Starwood Ave. to allow for a smooth flow of traffic through this busy area.