Three state studies focus on Pasco, northern Hillsborough
By Kyle LoJacono
Rail systems have come to dominate the conversation for public transportation in recent months, but that is not the only way to increase movement in Pasco and northern Hillsborough counties.
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is currently funding three studies on transportation corridors in conjunction with the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA). The affected roads include:
–Veterans Expressway/Suncoast Parkway
–Bruce B. Downs Boulevard
The SR 54/56 corridor study began last December and is scheduled to take two years. Elba Lopez, FDOT’s public transit/intermodal administrator for the area, said the goal is to decide if the 30 miles between Wesley Chapel and New Port Richey would benefit from managed traffic lanes for express bus travel.
“Managed lanes just means lanes devoted to buses and could also be used for carpoolers,” Lopez said. “That allows the buses to get through during peak levels of traffic and so they don’t slow down traffic either. There isn’t a set number of stops or anything like that yet. That corridor was identified as one of the priority one areas by the Regional Transportation Master Plan.”
Lopez said some of the reasons the area has been designated as priority one is the number of people that travel the corridor and the potential for growth in the coming years.
The boundaries for the project are Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, also known as CR 581, to US 19. The study is being done by RS&H at a cost of $500,000.
At this point, about 18 alternative plans have been proposed for the corridor. Once the more realistic ones are identified, FDOT will discuss them with the various stakeholders and the public.
In another study, the more than 100 miles of the Veterans Expressway/Suncoast Parkway from Tampa to Inverness in Citrus County is also being looked at for an express bus route with managed lanes. That study, which comes in at a price of $530,000, started very recently and is many months from completion, according to Lopez.
The last and most expensive study involves Bruce B. Downs from SR 54 in Wesley Chapel south to the University of South Florida, a stretch of about 50 miles. This project has more than just buses as a potential conclusion.
“That’s looking at bringing possible short-distance rail,” Lopez said. “It’s just conceptualizing it at this point. It’s not like tomorrow we’ll be putting down rails or anything like that, but it’s looking at the possibility.”
That rail study is only two months in and comes in at a $1.7 million price tag.
Stops along a future rail route are also not set, but stops in the area could include the Grove at Wesley Chapel, The Shops at Wiregrass and University Community Hospital.
FDOT spokeswoman Kris Carson said the public will be able to voice their opinions and get more information on the future of these corridors at later public meetings.
Information on these three studies or anything else related to the master plan is available on the TBARTA website, www.tbarta.com. The public can give their opinions and concerns there as well.