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Bowen: What's in a name? Better ask around

Garrick Infanger drives daily on State Road 54 from his home in Land O'Lakes to his office in Lutz, a roughly 21/2-mile one-way trip along a six-lane highway that Infanger believes needs a new name.

SR 54.

Highway 54.

"These are dated nomenclature for the area," says Infanger, a business consultant. "I think it comes off as a little rural."

Certainly, the SR 54/56 corridor is no longer rural. Pasco County is encouraging development there via discounted transportation fees. Just take a gander at the housing and retail boom along much of the route through central Pasco.

It's the name change at the SR 54/56 intersection with Wesley Chapel Boulevard (County Road 54) that particularly annoys Infanger. He's not alone in his thinking on that one, although an effort in 2015 to rename Wesley Chapel Boulevard south of the intersection — where the mailing addresses are assigned to Lutz — fizzled.

Infanger's idea is not to rename a segment of road, but to rechristen the entire thing. He is proposing to rename SR 54 and SR 56 from U.S. 19 to its eastern terminus as Sandhill Crane Highway. He's already set up a website — sandhillcranehighway.com — and a Facebook page, and is starting to run his idea past chambers of commerce.

So, why Sandhill Crane Highway?

"I would challenge you to drive from one end to the other and not see a sandhill crane," Infanger said.

The benign name eliminates any pitfalls tied to trying to name the road for a region or historical reference. Still, expect the effort to be uphill for the sandhill.

For starters, it would take buy-in from at least four separate chambers of commerce.

"And chambers can't even agree if it's Tuesday or not," deadpanned Greg Armstrong, leader of the West Pasco Chamber's ongoing effort to rebrand U.S. 19 as Gulf Coast Highway.

"First I've heard of it," said Terri Dusek, president of the Central Pasco Chamber of Commerce.

The SR 54/56 intersection "is an issue, I don't disagree with him," Dusek said. "You're driving straight, and it becomes a different name. It's kind of confusing, but I can't see that ever being changed."

The state Legislature would have to approve, as well. And that could be a problem.

SR 54 already carries the memorial designation as the Purple Heart Highway. Mike Fasano, now Pasco's tax collector, championed that cause as a freshman state legislator in 1996. SR 56 from SR 54 to Bruce B. Downs Boulevard is memorialized as Darce Taylor Crist Boulevard, for the late mother of former state senator and current Hillsborough Commissioner Victor Crist.

Crist said it would be disrespectful to remove the honor bestowed on wounded veterans. He didn't say if it would be disrespectful to his own family.

Frankly, though, multiple names shouldn't be too problematic because it's been done elsewhere. The entire length of U.S. 41 through Pasco County has been designated as the United Spanish War Veterans Memorial Highway, Paradise Drive and Blue Star Memorial Highway, according to Florida Department of Transportation records. In 2012, the state memorialized U.S. 41 north of State Road 52 as the Deputy John C. Mecklenburg Memorial Highway after the Hernando sheriff's deputy killed in the line of duty in a 2011 car crash in Pasco. South of SR 52, the road is Land O'Lakes Boulevard.

It's not the only road with an identity crisis. The future Gulf Coast Highway also has been tabbed a Blue Star Memorial Highway (one of three in the county). And, in 1932, the state designated U.S. 19 through Pasco as William H. Taft Memorial Highway, two years after the death of the 27th president, who later served as chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Trying to persuade people to rename an existing road is never easy. Crist, for instance, remembers his own annoyance when his Tampa address changed from 30th Street to Bruce B. Downs Boulevard in the mid 1980s.

Perhaps a better idea would be to name a planned, but not-yet-built, road as Sandhill Crane Highway. I would suggest the Ridge Road Extension. If approved by federal environmental regulators, it would provide another link between west Pasco and U.S. 41 while traversing the Serenova Tract of the Starkey Wilderness Preserve.

"A place you'd actually see sandhill cranes," Crist said.

Bowen: What's in a name? Better ask around 01/25/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 25, 2017 5:05pm]
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