Seeking connections between counties

Pasco County planners hope a study will point the way to consensus on whether to open more north/south roads that link Pasco and Hillsborough counties.

More than 100 people attended a public meeting on the topic on April 18 at Pasco-Hernando State College, off Mansfield Boulevard.

The boulevard dead-ends at the county line, just before reaching Kinnan Street, a two-lane, divided roadway in New Tampa, on Hillsborough’s side of the dividing line.

A caravan of buses travels along Mansfield Boulevard, twice a day, delivering and picking up students at three schools. Pasco County residents worry that linking Mansfield to Kinnan Street in New Tampa will increase traffic.
(Kathy Steele)

Connecting the two is one of three road projects that the study will consider over the next six months. Consultants with AECOM also will look at the potential for southern extensions of Meadow Pointe Boulevard and Wyndfields Boulevard that would link with existing and future roads in the K-Bar ranch development in Hillsborough.

Opening up Mansfield and Kinnan drew largely negative reviews from Pasco residents, specifically those living in Meadow Pointe subdivisions.

“More through roads will be needed,” said Meadow Pointe resident Michael Kaufman. “I’m not against development.

But, he said, “There are a lot of reasons not to connect Mansfield and Kinnan, and no good reason.”

The road designs aren’t compatible for one, and they also were never intended to be linked, Kaufman said. It is impossible to widen Kinnan beyond its current two lanes because there isn’t room, he added.

The increase in traffic would be a safety issue, particularly because there are three schools, and the state college along Mansfield, Kaufman said.

Richard Traudt, who lives in the Longleaf subdivision of Meadow Pointe, agreed.

Twice a day, caravans of buses carry students to and from their schools. Parents are lining up to drop off and pick up, also. It’s a traffic bottleneck at those times, which doesn’t make it a good connector street, but more traffic also becomes a safety problem, Traudt said.

“You would be putting students in more jeopardy than they are now,” he said, adding that more traffic signals at intersections likely would be needed.

For many at the meeting, a southern extension of Meadow Pointe Boulevard into K-Bar ranch made more sense.

“It was envisioned as a connecting street with New Tampa,” Kaufman said.

For New Tampa and Hillsborough residents, new ways to improve traffic flow also are important matters.

“We need a total system developed,” said Hillsborough resident Frank Hauser. “We need connections.” But, he shares concerns that Mansfield and Kinnan shouldn’t be linked, and agrees that Meadow Pointe Boulevard should be extended.

Janet and Stanley Murawski live in Meadow Pointe, close by county line.

They also support extending Meadow Pointe. “This would have the greatest assistance for everyone,” said Janet Murawski.

And, even though, a Mansfield-Kinnan link would shorten her drive to work, she said, “For me it would be good, but not for the area.”

Extending Wyndfields also had supporters, but that project seemed farther in the future than Meadow Pointe Boulevard.

Mansfield and Kinnan has been an unresolved issue for years, but negotiations with Pasco, Tampa and K-Bar developers never produced a solution.

Residents pushing for the connections cite the need for better evacuation routes, safety and greater mobility. Navigating the divide at Mansfield and Kinnan, for instance, can mean traveling a long, circular route using County Line road, Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, Cross Creek Boulevard and Morris Bridge Road.

“It started long before I got here,” said Pasco County Commission Chairman Mike Moore, who addressed audience members. “The study will look at all possible connections and impacts on both sides.”

The study is being funded by Pasco, with AECOM receiving about $112,000.

Though invited to contribute financially, Moore said the City of Tampa and Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization both declined.

Representatives were invited to the meeting, and Tampa City Councilman Luis Viera did attend.

Viera said New Tampa residents are eager to open routes, including Mansfield and Kinnan. He acknowledged the problems with that project but said the issue should be studied.

“We have a lot of quality of life in the balance for people,”Viera said.

The lack of north/south connections is hurting businesses on Cross Creek Boulevard, he said.

“You can’t get people there without them driving 20 minutes,” he said. “It’s something we’re willing to fight for.”

Moore, who is in his first term on the Pasco County Commission, met with former Tampa City Councilwoman Lisa Montelione last year to discuss linking Mansfield and Kinnan.

The issue surfaced soon after a 911 call led to confusion and misdirection over dispatching an ambulance to aid a Tampa resident who had suffered severe burns.

Moore, at the time, received phone calls and emails from Meadow Pointe residents opposed to opening the roads. But, Moore decided to request the study and explore feasible road projects, and also to hear from residents.

Published April 26, 2017

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