RIVERVIEW — County planners got more feedback than they expected during an informational meeting about the widening of a 3.1-mile stretch of Bell Shoals Road.
Nearly 300 residents attended the meeting on Tuesday, many expressing concerns about safety once the road is widened from two to four lanes starting next year.
“We had many, many more people than we anticipated,” said Steve Valdez, Hillsborough County spokesman. “We expected about 100.”
The meeting took place at Boyette Springs Elementary.
Those in attendance heard brief opening remarks before being referred to one of three stations that each included a map board outlining the project and a county official ready to answer questions.
Some residents were put off by the format of the meeting before they even got a chance to air their grievances.
“It was not a very informative meeting,” said Susan Herman, who has lived in the Indian Hills neighborhood off Bell Shoals for 16 years. Herman said she waited about an hour to speak with one of the county aides.
Valdez said the introductory portion of the meeting could’ve been expanded, but defended the “job fair” format.
“It’s a better format for exchanging information back and forth,” he said. “People get to talk one-on-one with someone from the county about their individual issue.”
Work on the $19 million expansion — which is being funded by Newland Communities and Hillsborough County — is scheduled to begin in January and end 18 to 24 months later.
The project will widen the 3.1-mile stretch between Bloomingdale Avenue and Boyette Road to a four-lane divided highway and include the installation of bike lanes, sidewalks and medians.
Residents who live in Indian Hills — along with a few other neighborhoods — will no longer be able to turn left onto Bell Shoals to travel north. Instead, they will have to turn right and cross to the far left lane to make a U-turn.
Alis Foran of Indian Hills believes this will increase traffic in some of the subdivisions off Bell Shoals because more motorists will try to avoid making the U-turn. At least one of those side roads — Arrowhead Lane — has a bus stop with small children, she said.
“I don’t understand why they are endangering our children,” Foran said.
Resident Victoria Kunz isn’t totally opposed to the expansion, but is disappointed by the lack of foresight from the county.
“I do think the road needs to be widened, but I also think families need to be given consideration,” Kunz said. “We don’t need fancy new medians; we need to be able to turn onto Bell Shoals safely.”
But the county must install medians because they are required by a new Florida Department of Transportation standard for new four-lane roads, Valdez said.
“Not having them is not an option,” he said.
The project’s design team tried to place the medians where they would be most useful, Valdez said.
“They gave the medians to the streets they anticipated will have the highest volume of traffic,” Valdez said.
Those in attendance were encouraged to fill out a comment sheet, and Valdez said the county is always open to feedback from the public.
For more information, call (813) 272-5275 or visit www.hillsboroughcounty.org