North Tampa residents discuss proposed bypass bridge

08/12/08 Seán Kinane
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In June, plans for an east-west expressway connecting New Tampa to Interstate 275 were abandoned because the road was too expensive. Now the eastern end of that proposed road, a bridge over Interstate 75, has become controversial with some saying it will relieve traffic on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and others calling it a bridge to nowhere.

Today at Freedom High School in New Tampa about 30 residents asked questions of staff from the city of Tampa. The bridge is required to be built because of a number of contracts that the city has signed with developers, according to Steve Daignault, administrator of Public Works and Utility Services.

Before a new development can be approved, an area must have sufficient roads for the additional traffic. The proposed bridge over I-75 would link Commerce Park Boulevard in Tampa Palms with New Tampa Boulevard in the West Meadows subdivision and was planned before that development was approved, said Jean Dorzback, the city’s chief of Planning and Project Management.

Tampa City Council member Joseph Caetano called the public meeting to discuss the city’s proposal to build the $22 million bridge over I-75. In May, Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio said that the money might be better used to widen the eastern half of Cross Creek Boulevard instead at a cost of $19 million. Caetano, who represents New Tampa, said he spoke to Iorio on Monday.

Pete Mormon lives on the northeast side of I-75 and is in favor of the city constructing the bridge from his side of the interstate toward Tampa Palms in order to cut down on his travel time to central Tampa.

Most of those in attendance opposed building the bridge; one even went as far as suggesting that Tampa Palms secede from the city of Tampa.

Kay Connoway lives on the southwest side of I-75. Both she and her husband Bob oppose the bridge construction. Bob Connoway said the bridge doesn’t make sense if plans for the east-west connector have been scrapped.

The proposed bridge would be wide enough for four lanes, but would begin as a two-lane road, officials said. Caetano said he would call additional meetings to discuss the idea.

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