BRANDON — As more businesses and homes spring up in South Shore, county and state officials are planning for a future road system that can handle the added traffic.
As part of that effort, the Florida Department of Transportation District Seven is studying the possibility of widening an 8-mile stretch of U.S. 41 from four to six lanes between State Road 676 (Causeway Boulevard) and Kracker Avenue to the south.
The study also considers the bridges crossing the Alafia River and Bullfrog Creek, which may both need to be replaced, and examines the possibility of adding bike lanes, sidewalks and bus stops along the route.
U.S. 41 is one of three heavily traveled north-south roadways in southern Hillsborough County, running parallel to Interstate 75 and U.S. 301. The goal of this study is to improve traffic flow and safety, FDOT officials say.
“There seems to be a lot of growth underway and both bridges, built separately, are probably 50 years old or older,” said FDOT Environmental Consultant Rick Adair. He said it is possible one or both bridges could be replaced before the road is actually widened to six lanes.
The Alafia bridge is considered “functionally obsolete,” because it doesn’t meet current design standards, like lane and shoulder widths, said FDOT spokeswoman Kris Carson.
For now, there is no funding for the widening and bridge replacement, said Project Manager Stephanie Pierce, but the study could help line it up for the future. The analysis should be complete by spring 2015, she said.
“We are looking at what the effects of the widening would be on the environment and what the community impact would be, like purchasing rights of way, would there need to be (business) relocations and is it better to acquire right of way from the east side or the west side,” Adair said.
The county’s Metropolitan Planning Organization, which addresses future transportation needs for the county, doesn’t list this project as “affordable” in its 2035 Plan for transportation improvements, but the plan does mention the need to widen U.S. 41 to six lanes.
Already, numerous new subdivisions are under construction in Riverview, Apollo Beach and just north of Wimauma. St. Joseph’s Hospital-South, under construction near I-75 at Big Bend Road, is expected to open next year, and plans are on the books for a mall on Big Bend Road.
A 1 million square-foot Amazon distribution center is under construction just north of State Road 674 (College Avenue) in Ruskin and could be complete by the end of this year. Amazon is expected to hire about 1,100 people initially.
FDOT also is working with Hillsborough County to add turn lanes on I-75 at Big Bend Road, where traffic already backs up every evening, and to add more lanes on Big Bend Road to reduce or eliminate backups.
Once the U.S. 41 study is complete, Pierce said, the Department of Transportation will hold a public hearing and property owners in the study area can give input on the recommendations.
For more information on the U.S. 41 study, contact Pierce at (813) 975-6445 or email stephanie [email protected]