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Commissioners move forward with multi-million dollar Greenways project

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It is a corridor through South County, some of which may eventually connect to Greenways and connected trails in the North part of the county

By PENNY FLETCHER

Richard Sanders, project manager for the South Coast Greenway, expects to have a report from the Tampa-based design firm Stantec any day that will detail that firm’s exact scope of services.

“I’m waiting to see their proposal,” Sanders said in an interview Oct. 16.  Stantec was chosen by Hillsborough County engineers to do a detailed study of the Greenway project that will include things like how it will be constructed and what materials will be used. County Commissioners approved $400,000 at their Sept. 19 budget meeting for this phase of the first portion of South County’s Greenways project.

In 2006, the firm of Wilson-Miller (which is now a part of Stantec) did a PD & E study costing $75,000 for this phase of the project, said Mike Williams, director of county engineering. “The PD & E differs from the new study because it is very preliminary- broad,” Williams said. “PD & E studies are to figure out the alignment. They’re a planning tool to find out the very basics of what and where (something will, or can, go).”

PD & E is Hillsborough County’s shorthand for planning, design and engineering and precedes every detailed study.

The Greenways project is a trail for non-motorized vehicles, Sanders explained. It is a corridor through South County, some of which may eventually connect to Greenways and connected trails in the North part of the county, he said.

Future plans all depend on if and when the funds for various portions of the planned trail are budgeted.

At the Sept. 19 budget meeting, both Sandra Murman of District 4, that covers most of South County, and Ken Hagen, who serves in a county-wide seat, pledged to back the project which would construct a multi-use pedestrian, jogging, skating and bike trail from Ruskin to Tampa both now and in the future.

“I want the county to commit to the South-Coast Greenway,” Hagen said. 

Minutes of the meeting state that he wants the South County community to “know that we (the Commissioners) are fully committed to this project, and although I’m not sure when funding is needed to begin construction, I fully support the funding of Phase I and I want to ensure that we have a seamless process and timeline moving forward,” Hagen continued.

Phase I of the project takes in the area in Ruskin from College to 19th avenues. And will cost approximately $2 million to construct, said Williams.

Phase II goes from 19th Avenue to Big Bend Road and will be funded by the developer of Waterset which is slated for that area along the East side of U.S. 41, he stated.

Phase III goes from Big Bend to Symmes Road and should cost about $4 million; Phase IV jumps to south Ruskin, and goes from College Avenue to the Little Manatee River.

Phase V again moves northward from Symmes Road to Gibsonton Drive and Phase VI from Gibsonton Drive to Madison Avenue, which is just southwest of Progress Village.

The Greenways project was first put on the books in the 1990s when the county was drawing up its MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization) plan that set land uses and densities. 

Since that time it has been supported by local environmental activists.

Mariella Smith of Ruskin set up a website at http://bit.ly/SoCoGway that follows the project and advises people of public meetings that concern its future.

Prior to the Commissioners September budget meeting Smith made flyers and sent out emails urging residents to tell Commissioners to fund the Greenways.

“We need to preserve lands and have nature trails,” Smith said.

“The paved trail is not only for recreation, but for safe transportation,” she wrote on her flyer. 

People who want to see the county’s description of what the Greenways plan is and where it was slated to go (according to the 2007 preliminary study by Wilson-Miller) may visit https://app.box.com/shared/d3sykkkexa.

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