Although it’s still in the preliminary stage, there is an effort afoot by Polk, Hillsborough and Pasco officials to widen the section of U.S. 98 that runs from Lakeland to Dade City along the edge of the Green Swamp Area of Critical State Concern.
Polk’s Transportation Planning Organization approved a resolution earlier this year to endorse securing funding for this project.
The stated reason is to support freight movement—more large truck traffic—along this corridor as the logistics/warehouse industry grows in the region.
As the plans develop, it will be worthwhile to be involved and to discuss how this project could be implemented to recognize the need to aid wildlife movement.
The project will likely require substantial wetlands mitigation and that could play a part in this effort.
The route runs through the headwaters of the Hillsborough River, bisecting large conservation areas that are key regional wildlife refuges. River basins are often used as wildlife corridors.
This is particularly key in places such as the Green Swamp, which serves as a hub for a network of wildlife corridors for species ranging from Florida black bear to less obvious species of reptiles and amphibians and small mammal species.
There is no funding in the current five-year local Florida Department of Transportation tentative work plan, but the project is listed as an unfunded goal in Polk’s 2040i transportation plan.