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Wednesday, Apr 25, 2018
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Odessa residents ask for sound barriers along Veterans Expressway

ODESSA — Residents living in the shadow of the Veterans Expressway will meet Tuesday with government officials about roadway-related noise and drainage problems in their neighborhood.

In August, to demonstrate the level of noise, two dozen residents met with aides of their government representatives beneath the expressway's Lake LeClare Road overpass. Summer Robertson, aide to U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, followed up with a letter to the Florida Department of Transportation, saying residents seek the type of sound barriers provided for the community of Cheval.

In response, a member of the DOT's Florida's Turnpike Enterprise said such barriers are not planned for the small community near the Lake Clare/Tobacco roads intersection. “We evaluated this subdivision and found that due to the configuration of the homes, only 10 homes exceeded 66 decibels, and we were only able to benefit 11 homes” with a reduction of at least 5 decibels, wrote Rebekah Hammond. “This equated to a cost-per-benefited residence of $54,916, which is above the $42,000 benefitted residence allowed by our criteria.”

The 8-foot-high noise walls are planned for other nearby sections of the expressway, slated to be widened beginning in May.

People living near the Lake Clare/Tobacco intersection haven't given up. They hope Tuesday's meeting with government officials will have positive results, said Nancy Tracy, who has lived in the ares since 1952, decades before the Veterans Expressway opened in 1994.

Though initial response to the problem has not been promising, Tracy said Robertson and aides to other local officials continue to write letters and lobby the expressway authority to be more responsive to residents' needs.

Longtime residents say that with the exception of Hurricane Donna in 1960, drainage problems did not exist in the neighborhood before the expressway was built. Tracy and others in the neighborhood have been working to obtain a fix for the problems for about eight months, and have supporting petitions signed by 100 area residents.

The 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday meeting is at Keystone Civic Center in Keystone Park, 17928 Gunn Highway, Odessa. Scheduled participants include Robertson; Christa Deason, spokeswoman for Florida's Turnpike Enterprise; Spencer Plyant, aide to State Sen. John Legg, R-Lutz; and Craig Jewesak, an aide to Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist.

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