The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) in partnership with the City of Tampa, Hillsborough and Pasco Counties has conducted a Project Development & Environment (PD&E) study to evaluate capacity improvement alternatives for CR 581/SR 581 (Bruce B. Downs Boulevard) in Hillsborough and Pasco Counties. The proposed project involves improving CR 581 from Bearss Avenue to SR 56 and SR 581 from SR 56 to SR 54 for a distance of approximately 12.8 miles.
CR 581/SR 581 is currently a six-lane facility from Bearss Avenue to Lake Forest Drive, and a four-lane facility from Lake Forest Drive to north of SR 56. The remaining portion of CR 581/SR 581 is a two-lane facility. The recommended typical section for the Hillsborough County section is an eight-lane divided facility. In Pasco County, the recommended typical section is a six-lane divided facility.
The Public Hearing for the CR 581/SR 581 PD&E Study was held on Thursday, May 15, 2003 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Benito Middle School in New Tampa. At the Public Hearing the Build Alternatives for Hillsborough and Pasco Counties were presented as well as the No-Build Alternative.
Study Purpose and Need
The objective of this PD&E Study was to provide documented environmental and engineering analyses that would assist the FDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in reaching a decision on the location and conceptual design for improvements to CR 581/SR 581. The PD&E study complied with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other Federal and state laws to qualify the project for Federal-aid funding.
The need for improvements along the CR 581/SR 581 corridor was based on current substandard traffic operations, future traffic demands along the corridor, and projected future growth in the project area.
The portion of CR 581 from Bearss Avenue to County Line Road in Hillsborough County is included in the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) 2025 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP).
CR 581/SR 581 from County Line Road to SR 56 in Pasco County is included in the Pasco County MPO’s 2025 LRTP 2002-2006 Capital Improvement Plan for improvement from a four- lane divided facility to a six-lane divided facility. From SR 56 north to SR 54, the Plan includes widening CR 581/SR 581 from a two-lane undivided facility to a six-lane divided facility.
The rapid growth and development that occurred in the northernmost portion of Hillsborough County (and New Tampa) and the southernmost portion of Pasco County has led to a rapid increase in peak hour traffic volumes on both CR 581/SR 581 and I-75. Although a proposed East/West Connector Road (connecting Commerce Park Boulevard to I-275) is in the MPO’s LRTP, new interchange improvements will still be required for the I-75/CR 581 interchange in order to provide a desirable level of service for the 2028 design year.
The existing daily traffic volumes along the CR 581/SR 581 corridor ranged from approximately 14,800 vehicles/day, to approximately 58,200 vehicles/day. A severe capacity deficiency exists throughout a majority of the corridor during both the a.m. and p.m. peak traffic periods. In general, the peak directions of travel along CR 581/SR 581 are southbound in the a.m. peak hour and northbound in the p.m. peak hour.
A majority of the intersections along the corridor are currently performing at deficient levels of service. Vehicular queues generally extend between closely spaced intersections, especially in the vicinity of I-75, in the northbound direction in the p.m. period and in the southbound direction during the a.m. period.
The I-75/CR 581 interchange is experiencing operational problems that are directly related to the interchange’s inability to provide enough capacity to accommodate the predominant movements during the peak periods. The lack of capacity for the southbound CR 581/SR 581 to southbound I-75 movement causes the vehicular queue in the a.m. peak to extend back through the entire interchange as well as beyond the left turn lane on the north side of the interchange and spill back into the adjacent CR 581/SR 581 through lane.
Population growth and development within the immediate project area has been explosive since1990, especially along the segment of CR 581/SR 581 from I-75 north to SR 54. Population growth in the project study area since the 1990 Census has ranged from 117 to 195 percent. The population bordering the project in Pasco County grew by 195 percent since the 1990 census. While much of this growth can be attributed to an increase in single-family residential units, recent development has included large numbers of apartment units, primarily in Hillsborough County. The growth in population has been followed by rapid growth in commercial and office projects including shopping plazas, “big-box” discount stores, restaurants, and entertainment facilities.
The CR 581/SR 581 corridor is a north/south facility and is functionally classified as an arterial. In 2003, CR 581/SR 581 was a six-lane facility from Bearss Avenue to Lake Forest Drive, and a four-lane facility from Lake Forest Drive to north of SR 56.
The recommended typical section for CR 581/SR 581 in Hillsborough County is an eight-lane divided facility, with a 30 ft raised median, four 12 ft travel lanes in each direction, a 5 ft sidewalk on the west side of the roadway, and a 10 ft multi-use path on the east side of the roadway. This typical section would be constructed from Bearss Avenue to County Line Road within the existing ROW, as shown in Figure 9-1. The proposed design speed for this typical section is 45 mph. This typical section will require ROW for stormwater treatment ponds and possible floodplain compensation.
Due to the location of the existing bridge piers and the need for four through lanes in each direction on CR 581/SR 581 under the center span (as well as dual left-turn lanes for the northbound CR 581/SR 581 to northbound I-75 movement), there is not sufficient width available between the piers to provide 12 ft travel lanes. With the CR 581/SR 581 typical section, four 11 ft through lanes would be provided in the northbound direction along with two 10.5 ft left-turn lanes and 2.5 ft inside and outside shoulders. In the southbound direction, four 12 ft through lanes could be provided along with a 12.25 ft inside shoulder, a 2.5 ft outside shoulder, and a 6 ft sidewalk. The existing multi-use pathway would be relocated under the existing end span of the bridge to facilitate the implementation of the northbound CR 581/SR 581 improvements.
In Pasco County, the recommended typical section is a six-lane divided facility, with a 40 ft depressed median, three 12 ft travel lanes in each direction, 8 ft outside shoulders with 5 ft of the shoulder paved, and 15 ft drainage swales. A 5 ft sidewalk on the east side of the roadway and a 10 ft multi-use path on the west side of the roadway are also being proposed. This typical section would be constructed from County Line Road to SR 54. The proposed design speed for this typical section is 55 mph. This section would be constructed within the existing 200 ft ROW envelope. This segment of roadway and the stormwater treatment ponds are to be designed and constructed per a development agreement with Pasco County.