Construction likely to add to traffic problems at Strawberry Fest

- Construction barriers and an unfinished lane addition project may contribute to traffic jams for visitors to the Florida Strawberry Festival.

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is working to add a second right turn lane on the ramp headed to eastbound Thonotosassa Road from Interstate 4. They're also implementing a traffic signal at the intersection.

Plant City commissioner Michael Sparkman says the city was assured by FDOT the project would be complete in time for the festival. FDOT says that promise was never made and calls the city's position a misunderstanding.

FDOT spokesman John McShaffrey says the agency had hoped to have the construction complete by the festival, but later learned it would be done sometime in April.

McShaffrey says, as a result of the festival, the construction crew moved barricades that took the ramp down to one lane. For the duration of the festival, the ramp's traffic pattern will remain the way it was before work started. He says that should keep traffic on the ramp normal.

Sparkman says the completed project would have eased congestion getting to the festival and is concerned the barriers will cause more confusion and lead to backups.

"The barricades up, the concrete barriers and all that stuff make it difficult for people that come in there. It kind of scares them slows them up and we don't need anything slowing traffic coming on in," said Sparkman.

"We will handle it surely, but it's gonna be difficult and it could have been a whole lot easier flowing," he said.

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