The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) conducted a a Project Development and Environment (PD&E) Study to evaluate the widening of approximately 2 miles along Hillsborough Avenue from 50th Street to west of I-4. Hillsborough Avenue is a major east-west arterial in central Hillsborough County that connects US 301 and I-4 and provides access to many commercial, industrial and residential areas within central Hillsborough County. The roadway is to be improved from an existing 4-lane divided to a 6-lane divided roadway. The approximate beginning and ending mileposts are 3.015 and 4.772, respectively.
The purpose of this report along with other support documents was to document the engineering and environmental analysis performed to support decisions related to project alternatives. In addition, it summarized existing conditions, documents the purpose and need for the project, and documents other data related to preliminary design concepts. These preliminary design concepts establish the functional or conceptual requirements that will be the starting point for the final design phase.
Study Purpose and PD&E Process
The objective of the PD&E study process was to provide the documentation necessary to reach a decision on the type, conceptual design, and specific location of the improvements identified as being needed. Factors considered include transportation needs, socioeconomic and environmental impacts, and engineering requirements. In general terms, the process involves the following steps:
- the establishment of project need
- the gathering and analysis of detailed information regarding the natural and cultural features of the study area
- the development of a number of alternatives for meeting the project need
- the selection of a Recommended Alternative, and
- documenting the entire process in a series of reports
During the process, communication with the affected public was accomplished directly, through public meetings, and indirectly, through interaction with elected officials and agency representatives.
The FDOT’s Efficient Transportation Decision Making (ETDM) process provides agencies and the public access to project planning information, as well as potentially affected environmental resources through use of the internet via the Environmental Screening Tool (EST). The tool allows interaction among transportation planners, regulatory agencies and affected communities to provide input on projects. The agency representatives involved in the interaction are referred to as the Environmental Technical Advisory Team, or ETAT members. The team provides a review of the projects on a variety of areas such as environmental and community impacts. Key features of the ETDM Process include:
- early agency and community involvement
- early identification of avoidance and mitigation strategies
- access to comprehensive data in standardized formats
- reviews and studies focused on key issues
- permit issuance linked to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews
- maximized use of technology for coordination, project scoping and communication
ETDM provides the ability for early agency interaction and coordination during project development, which can improve the quality of decisions and reduce cost and time delays during the PD&E Study.
Project Purpose and Need
The purpose and need for the proposed project includes the following items:
- To provide additional highway capacity along Hillsborough Avenue to meet future travel demands.
- To safely accommodate future vehicle traffic as well as non-motorized users.
- To provide improved hurricane/emergency evacuation for portions of Hillsborough County.
- To provide improvements consistent with local transportation plans while obtaining community support and minimizing community impacts.
- To develop a transportation solution that is financially feasible for FDOT to build, operate, and maintain.