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U.S. 301 project scheduled for completion in 2014

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image Drivers face a confusing pattern of cones coming from the north on U.S. 301 as they approach Big Bend Road in Riverview. Penny Fletcher Photo

Lincoln Road traffic signal plans completed

By PENNY FLETCHER

RIVERVIEW — A multi-phase project aimed at reducing bottlenecked traffic on U.S. 301 that was started in 2008 is slated to be finished by 2014.

The first phase of the project included making turn lanes where 301 meets two major intersections: U.S. 301 and Big Bend Road and U.S. 301 and Gibsonton Drive/Boyette Road. (The road is Gibsonton Drive to the west of U.S. 301 and Boyette Road to the east).

Prior to the ongoing project, those intersections were listed as two of the county’s top five most dangerous, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.

After reworking the two intersections, which included putting in turn lanes and concrete medians, the road was widened from two lanes to six, three going north and three going south.

The first widening was between Big Bend and Gibsonton/Boyette, and then it was extended north to the end of Riverview to meet with work already done in the Bloomingdale Avenue section of the highway.

The widening then continued south from Big Bend Road to State Road 672 which goes only east from U.S. 301 and leads to Balm.

This project included constructing a five-foot-wide sidewalk on the west side of the road, and a 12-foot multi-use sidewalk on the east side which accommodates bicycles, skateboards and skaters as well as walkers and joggers. This sidewalk has been completed between Big Bend and Gibsonton/Boyette roads on the east side of the highway, connecting all the subdivisions that have been built along U.S. 301’s east side during the last 10 years.

Prince Contracting Company is in charge of this part of the project and has a target date for completion of spring 2012.

What is going on now is median completion, and because that work must be performed in the center of the highway, the lanes of orange cones and barrels are often confusing. Many temporary blue highway signs pointing into entrances of plazas and businesses have been erected to try and eliminate confusion but because the cement truck must change position every time it pours a section of median, the traffic pattern is in constant flux.

When the work already started is done, the widening will continue southward.

Kris Carson of the Florida Department of Transportation said that funding for a south extension to six lanes between State Road 672 and State Road 674, at the Sun City Center/Wimauma intersection with U.S. 301, has been budgeted for 2013 and 2014.

The medians currently being constructed are raised and styled to help the flow of traffic through the development-heavy area, she said.

In other news about traffic in that area, plans have been completed for a long-awaited signal light at the intersection of Big Bend and Lincoln roads.

“We’re in the bidding process now,” said Robert Kouveras, a project manager with Hillsborough County’s Roads and Streets. “Plans are completed.”

Talk of a signal at that intersection came up about three years ago when several large attractions went into the plaza. Now there are many businesses, a line of restaurants, a bowling alley and an apartment house complex, all with the main entrance off Lincoln Road.

In 2010, another entrance was opened just west of the Burger King, which has alleviated some of the traffic problems but the intersection still has many accidents.

Lincoln Road is too close to the Big Bend/ 301 signal to the east and the Covington Drive/ Big Bend traffic signal to its west to warrant a signal light under the county’s directives, but accidents have prompted the construction of one anyway.
“We’ve finished the planning,” Kouveras said. “We couldn’t put up a temporary wooden pole like we did at Summerfield Boulevard and Big Bend Road intersection in the meantime because codes say a span connected to wood poles cannot exceed 150 feet.”

So the county had to wait until a complete plan for a permanent signal was completed.

The State of Florida is in charge of U.S. highways such as U.S. 301, while the county is in charge of State Roads like Big Bend, Gibsonton/Boyette and S.R. 672 and 674.

“Projects like this make it necessary for us to work closely together,” said Carson of FDOT.

The area surrounding the Big Bend/ U.S. 301 intersection is undergoing final median work, getting its last layer of asphalt, final lane striping, and then streetlights will be turned on, Carson added.

People who want to learn more about this project and other Florida highway projects may visit www.dot.state.fl.us. Then select “projects” and go to “current projects” and click on “Hillsborough County/District 7.”

An overview of all FDOT projects in the state are listed there.

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