Saturday, May 26, 2018
News Roundup

Pasco commissioners approve safety improvements to Moon Lake Road

DADE CITY — Courtney Little and Kimberlee Markou would have been in the midst of their senior year at River Ridge High School if not for an accident in July on a stretch of Moon Lake Road that claimed the teens' lives.

Now, after hearing safety reports and a recommendation from county engineers, Pasco commissioners are taking steps that they hope address longstanding safety problems on the winding high-speed road.

After a presentation by staff, commissioners voted 5-0 Tuesday to spend $2.2 million on improvements to parts of Moon Lake Road — including repaving a stretch and adding a foot of shoulder to both sides of the highway.

Other improvements include warning signs, road striping, solar-powered flashing yellow lights and rumble devices embedded into the pavement to warn drivers when their car is veering off the road or toward oncoming traffic.

Parents of the two teens said they're grateful at least something is being done four months after the car that Little and Markou were riding in spun out of control and into the path of an sport utility vehicle.

"Anything they do will be an improvement, but I don't think it's sufficient for what that road needs," parent Tim Little, a Pasco sheriff's deputy, said after the vote. "A widening is really what is needed for that road."

The parents blame poor road conditions for contributing to the deadly July 2 crash, in particular a 6-inch drop-off at the edge of the pavement and the road surface itself, which was slippery after a recent storm.

A state Department of Transportation safety study showed 155 crashes occurred on Moon Lake Road, including 51 with injuries and two fatalities, during the three years from 2010 to 2012.

Of that total, 37 percent of the crashes involved vehicles going off the road and 11 percent occurred during wet road conditions. Twenty-three percent happened on a curve.

The parents believe the girls' Chevrolet sedan might have over-corrected after dropping off the edge of the road near Bethwood Avenue, causing it to skid into oncoming traffic.

As the car veered to the left, a Dodge SUV traveling north on Moon Lake Road crashed into the sedan's passenger side, killing the girls.

While the parents applauded the safety enhancements, they said they don't go far enough to correct larger issues.

Like Tim Little, parent Laura Markou said she believes the best solution is to widen the road to four lanes and redesign it to remove sharp curves and blind spots.

"What I've heard is that the puddling of water, the hydroplaning, is another problem and that whatever they do I think that needs to be addressed," Markou said.

The resurfacing will run from Ridge Road to Nassau Drive, about a quarter-mile south of State Road 52. The work will involve milling the pavement and laying 2 ½ inches of fresh asphalt. A left-turn lane is planned from southbound Moon Lake Road to Bethwood Avenue.

County staff said the work will start in 120 days and last three to four months.

Long-range plans call for widening the highway to four lanes at a cost of about $30 million, but that project isn't set to start until 2026.

Commission Chairman Jack Mariano asked, however, whether the project could be done in phases so that the stretch from Ridge to Bethwood could be widened in a year or two. Officials said they would study the issue and report back to commissioners.

In other business Tuesday, commissioners:

• Rejected a $1.2 million federal grant to hire officers for Pasco County schools. The grant was rejected on the advice of staff because it required a $1.5 million match by the school district.

• Approved naming Mariano as commission chairman. Commissioner Henry Wilson was named vice chairman. And commissioners confirmed the appointment of Annette Stahura as budget director after she served as interim budget director.

Comments
Rays pitchers Ryne Stanek, Anthony Banda dominate in 5-1 win over Orioles

Rays pitchers Ryne Stanek, Anthony Banda dominate in 5-1 win over Orioles

THE BASEBALL LABORATORY IN ST. PETERSBURG — Up is down. Down is up. Hello is goodbye. Goodbye is hello. A reliever is a starter. A starter is a reliever.These are your 2018 Tampa Bay Rays.You never know what's going to happen. And just when you...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
Rays journal: After Alex Colome trade, Rays’ closer situation is fluid, Kevin Cash says

Rays journal: After Alex Colome trade, Rays’ closer situation is fluid, Kevin Cash says

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays have had to get creative in how they start games. Now, after Friday's trade of closer Alex Colome, they might have to get creative in how they finish them.How they handle the ninth inning going forward will be a fluid ...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
Former Bucs QB Josh Freeman says he’s retiring from football

Former Bucs QB Josh Freeman says he’s retiring from football

Former Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman, who was trying to resurrect his career with the CFL's Montreal Alouettes, said Saturday that he is retiring from football.Freeman, 30, was a first-round draft pick of the Bucs in 2009 and was their starting ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Her husband wouldn't apologize to her father — so she shot him, police say

Her husband wouldn't apologize to her father — so she shot him, police say

RIVERVIEW — A Riverview woman shot and killed her husband Saturday because he punched her father and wouldn’t say sorry, the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office said. Sabrina Michelle Hendley, 40, faces a first-degree murder charge in th...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Thomas Bassinger’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Orioles game

Thomas Bassinger’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Orioles game

Interesting decision by the Rays to start RH reliever Ryne Stanek on Saturday. The Orioles' Nos. 1 through 5 hitters were righties, and Stanek came in allowing a 1.228 OPS against righties and a .592 OPS against lefties. It ended up working.How ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Hernando officials seize 36 neglected dogs from sanctuary

Hernando officials seize 36 neglected dogs from sanctuary

WEEKI WACHEE — A woman who runs an animal sanctuary will face dozens of animal cruelty charges after Hernando County animal enforcement officers said they found dogs, equine, pigs, cats and chickens housed in poor conditions on her property.Animal of...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Police investigating shooting outside nightclub

ST. PETERSBURG — Police are investigating a fatal shooting that occurred outside a south St. Petersburg nightclub early Saturday morning.Brennan-Aire D. Williams, 28, was pronounced dead shortly after arriving by cab at Bayfront Health. Police invest...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Vegas envy: Is Tampa Bay ready for a Vegas’ birth-to-best story?

Vegas envy: Is Tampa Bay ready for a Vegas’ birth-to-best story?

What in the name of the 0-26 Bucs is going on here?The breathtaking Vegas Golden Knights are the greatest expansion team in professional sports history. They are the best (or worst) thing to ever happen to our games, having won 51 times during the re...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Woman dies in Plant City after SUV flips off road

PLANT CITY — A Seffner woman died Saturday from injuries sustained when her sports utility vehicle flipped off the road and crashed into a fence near the intersection of Tanner Road and State Road 574.Amanda K. Cepeda-Duque, 21, was traveling west on...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Updated: 8 hours ago