Proposed road connection remains controversial

A proposed 700-home addition to K-Bar Ranch is reopening arguments on the long-debated road connection of Kinnan Street in Hillsborough County and Mansfield Boulevard in Pasco County.

Hillsborough and Pasco officials have disagreed over the connector for at least a decade.

And, Kinnan and Mansfield remain dead-end roadways separated by a weedy plot of land — about 30 feet to 40 feet long.

Barricades are set up on Mansfield Boulevard in Pasco County, where the road dead-ends a short distance from Kinnan Street in the K-Bar ranch development in New Tampa. (File)

Tampa City Council members voted May 3 to postpone a decision on the K-Bar Ranch expansion in New Tampa until June 28.

The added time is to give Hillsborough, Pasco and developers another chance to reach agreement – to connect or not to connect.

However, Pasco isn’t likely to be ready with an answer before September at the earliest.

Pasco County commissioners approved the “Wesley Chapel Roadway Connections Study” in 2017. The study is looking at three potential connectors between the two counties. One is Kinnan and Mansfield.

Other connections under consideration would extend Wyndfields and Meadow Pointe boulevards in Pasco to link with existing and future roads in the K-Bar ranch.

A draft report is scheduled for May 15, but a final recommendation from Pasco’s Metropolitan Planning Organization won’t be presented to the Pasco County Commission until September.

“We’re sticking to our timeline of getting the study and getting public input,” said Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore. “We represent the citizens of Pasco, not the citizens of Hillsborough or Tampa. That’s what we have to be concerned with, what will have a negative impact, what will have a positive impact.”

For residents of New Tampa, the lack of a north/south connector is a traffic hardship on a daily basis. The drive toward Wesley Chapel follows a circuitous route that adds miles and minutes to the trip, coming and going.

“Many of them feel locked in their neighborhoods,” said Tampa City Councilman Luis Viera. “It’s very important to them to have the connector.”

Viera has, to date, been the lone vote on Tampa city council against the K-Bar project, based on the uncertainty over Kinnan and Mansfield.

“It’s a crisis of governments not really working together,” he said. He added, “I certainly hope we can use all of our power…to advocate for this connection to be made.”

Viera said he would bring up the topic on May 11 at a public meeting of the Tampa Bay Transportation Management Area Leadership Group. The group includes representatives from Pinellas County, Pasco, Hillsborough and Tampa, and generally discusses regional transportation issues.

The meeting will be at 9:30 a.m., at the Pasco County Utilities Administration Building, at 19420 Central Blvd., in Land O’ Lakes.

Area residents in Hillsborough and Pasco have competing petitions at Change.org, for and against the connection.

Meadow Pointe II resident Chris Dillinger organized opposition. He lives near the connector site in Pasco, and has children who attend area schools.

Opening Mansfield to additional traffic is a safety issue, he said. “I’m very, very concerned about it,” Dillinger said.

Meadow Pointe II residents also opposed a rezoning for a 7-Eleven gas station and convenience store at Mansfield and County Line Road. The matter was postponed in January to a “time uncertain.”

7-Eleven wants to build there in anticipation of Mansfield and Kinnan linking, and the additional traffic that will flow onto Mansfield, Dillinger said. “That’s still out there,” he added.

Published May 9, 2018

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