Hillsborough planners scrap reversible lanes to ease Brandon traffic

BRANDON, Fla. (WFLA) — After a number of public hearings and a heap of public outrage, Hillsborough transportation planners insist they’re going to scrap the idea of reversible lanes on Bloomingdale Avenue as a means of reducing Brandon’s daily rush hour nightmare.

“Our recommendation is there will not be reversible lanes on Bloomingdale,” said Melissa Zornitta, Executive Director of the Hillsborough MPO.

The $230,000 study, called the Brandon Corridors & Mixed-use Centers Pilot Project, examined a number of options to reduce east-west traffic congestion on major corridors from State Road 60 to Lumsden Road and Bloomingdale Avenue.

A number of the study’s conclusions and recommendations are mired in technical jargon only a transportation planner can understand, but one element  — the reversible lanes plan for Bloomingdale Avenue — stood out like a sore thumb for Brandon business owners and residents. They protested that reversible lanes would benefit pass-through commuter traffic at the expense of local business patrons who would no longer be able to make left turns.

A number of those critics spoke against the reversible lanes at a Planning Commission meeting October 9.

“It truly would be a disaster,” said Brandon Veterinarian Richard Kane, who insisted he was also speaking for the clients of his clinic. “One hundred percent of the people thought it was a horrible idea.”

A few weeks later, 120 people turned out for a planning commission meeting October 30 to protest the concept. Hillsborough MPO planners had to cut off speakers because the meeting ran over two hours with more people still lined up to speak in a community center they had only rented for 90 minutes. Nonetheless, they got the message.

“Folks from all across the community were very upset by the idea of the concept,” Zornitta said.

Marilyn Schotanes and her daughter Karen run the Bloomingdale Florist shop on Bloomingdale Ave. They’ve stopped making flower deliveries after 4 p.m. because of rush hour congestion.

“The traffic is just way too heavy and the drivers wouldn’t get back until 6:30, sometimes 7 o’clock,” Marilyn Schotanes said.

She insists that Brandon does need traffic solutions such as more roads but tells us reversible lanes are not the answer.

“No, no it would make it more difficult than it is already,” Schotanes said.

The $230,000 study also describes intersection improvements, more connector roads, more connectivity between businesses that line busy roads like Bloomingdale, the possible widening of Lumsden Road and improved service by HART as other solutions to Brandon’s traffic mess.

All of those ideas will, of course, require more studies and more money to execute.

Meanwhile, Zornitta tells us the reversible lane concept is off the table, but not a waste of the public money they paid consultants to dream it up in the first place.

“Finding out that something won’t work is just as valuable as finding out that it will,” Zornitta said.

The Hillsborough Planning Commission will discuss the study again at its next meeting December 11.

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