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Plant City Observer Friday, Aug. 11, 2017 2 months ago

Sam Allen Road widening closer to construction

Once widened, the road will be able to accommodate the twenty year projection of twice the traffic volume and encase the ‘heart’ of the city in a four-lane loop.
by: Daniel Figueroa IV Staff Writer

A decades-old plan to wrap the heart of Plant City in a four-lane loop is getting closer to completion as a project to widen Sam Allen Road gets closer to the construction phase.

Sam Allen Road will be transformed from a two-lane rural road to a four-lane divided urban roadway for two miles running from Paul Buchman Parkway to east of Park Road. The project is expected to begin construction toward late spring 2018, Kevin Lee, project manager for the Florida Department of Transportation, said. There’s no expected completion date, Lee said, but a project like the Sam Allen widening could take between 700 and 900 days.

Once completed, the project will help to complete a loop around the city, something Mayor Rick Lott said has been a consistent goal of the City Commission. Only the section of Sam Allen Road between Alexander Street and Paul Buchman Highway will be left to widen.

“It’s been a long term vision,” Lott said. “It’s been around for about 20 years, even before I came on the commission. It’s nice that we’re going to be completing it.”

Sam Allen Road is owned and maintained by Hillsborough County. The nearly $30 million project is managed and funded through FDOT using federal dollars. According to FDOT, the project has been “closely coordinated with Hillsborough County, City of Plant City, CSX and Utility owners along the corridor.”

Lott said efforts are underway to secure funding to extend the Sam Allen widening to Alexander Street.

“We are working to make that final piece a reality,” he said.

FDOT estimates road usage along Sam Allen will be about 14,700 cars by 2020 and about 27,700 cars by 2036, creating the need for more space on the road.

City Engineer Mike Schenk said the new road will be essential once projects like the North Park Isles community district, expected to have more than 1,000 units, are completed. Another project in the area, the currently stalled Varrea project, is expected to add more than 2,000 new homes to the area around Sam Allen and Park Roads and is said to include a shopping village. The coming developments in the area fall in line with Plant City’s 2040 projections of a nearly doubled population and most growth in the city’s northeast sector.

The loop would would encase Plant City north to south from Sam Allen Road to Alexander Street and east to west from Jim Johnson and Park roads to Alexander Street. 

“It makes it easier to get around,” Schenk said. “It gives more options for less congested travel throughout the city.”

More dispersed traffic, Lott said, also means extending the life of the roads. The loop also creates more options for commercial traffic, rerouting trucks traveling through the city from needing to pass through historic downtown.

As Plant City continues to grow, Lott said the loop would encase the heart of Plant City, allowing for centralized growth and staving off urban sprawl on the city’s edges.

“You always want to build form the heart of the city and go outward,” he said. “You have growth in the center of the city and you’ll have growth outward.”

The project will also feature sidewalks and bike lanes, coordinating it with the city’s evolving Walk/Bike plan to create a system of trails, sidewalks and bike paths connecting all quadrants of the city to a downtown hub.

Daniel Figueroa IV is a Staff Writer at the Plant City Times & Observer. He has been covering Plant City since 2017. Previously, he was the politics and veteran affairs reporter at the Ledger of Lakeland. He probably wants to ride motorcycles and trade books with...

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