Friday, June 22, 2018
Transportation

DOT, Pasco County ponder fix at intersection of U.S. 41 and SR 54

LAND O'LAKES — State and Pasco County transportation planners are working on an interim fix for traffic congestion at the State Road 54/U.S. 41 intersection that is simpler and much less costly than a proposed $180 million elevated highway.

The flyover plan remains on hold amid community criticism and a county task force studying traffic improvements for the entire State Road 54 corridor. In the meantime, the state Department of Transportation has suggested that extended turn lanes could ease traffic flow at the intersection, which has nearly 100,000 vehicles pass through daily. The improvements, if all are completed, carry a rough cost estimate of less than $1.4 million because no right of way is needed for the construction.

County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey shared the news with fellow commissioners during a daylong work session last week, and it drew an immediate and positive response.

"That's huge," commission Chairman Mike Moore said.

Among the ideas:

• For eastbound traffic on SR 54 approaching the intersection, the state proposes to extend the length of the right-turn lane at U.S. 41 nearly fivefold from 215 feet to 1,050 feet. The inside left-turn lane, now measuring 350 feet long, would be extended to 750 feet, and the outside left-turn lane would be even longer, growing to 875 feet total. The cost estimate is $1.04 million.

"This will most likely be our top priority," County Engineer Margaret Smith said via email. "It is also the most extensive/expensive improvement, but will most likely offer the biggest bang for the buck."

• Westbound vehicles on SR 54 would see the existing right-turn lane at U.S. 41 lengthened from 360 feet to 500 feet. No changes would be made to the left-turn lanes. Estimated cost: $126,000.

• The two left-turn lanes at SR 54 used by southbound traffic on U.S. 41 would be lengthened about 10 percent to 475 feet. The right-turn lane would be lengthened from 320 feet to 475 feet. The projected cost for both extensions is $199,000.

The turn lanes for northbound traffic on U.S. 41 would not change because "these turn lane lengths have already been maximized," the DOT said.

"It looks on paper that this is a viable, interim improvement, particularly the west leg," where SR 54 traffic is heading east, said Jim Edwards, transportation planning manager for Pasco's Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Several questions remain, including when the improvements could be done and who would pay for design and construction. Despite the uncertainties, the proposed changes were greeted enthusiastically.

"I think everyone recognizes the need to get this done," Smith said.

"I'm grateful that there is some progress going to be made other than this intersection be put on the shelf until they decide on the overhead highway — which is unacceptable," said Christie Zimmer of Land O'Lakes, who sits on the MPO's advisory committee and on the county task force studying the entire SR 54 corridor.

The DOT announced a year ago that it was hitting the brakes on the U.S. 41/SR 54 flyover plan until the county task force completed its work. At the time, the state had unveiled two proposals to carry SR 54 traffic on elevated lanes above the intersection. Cost estimates ranged up to $180 million and, under one scenario, 23 businesses, two homes and a Pasco County fire station near the intersection would be affected.

A flyover at the intersection has been discussed for more than two decades, starting when the state pulled the plug on a planned east-west highway through Lutz to connect the Veterans Expressway and Interstate 75. Later, a new interchange at I-75 and SR 56 and the widening of both SR 54 and SR 56 to six lanes turned that stretch of highway into the de facto east-west route. Projections call for daily traffic through the intersection to more than double to 208,000 vehicles over the next 25 years.

Comments
SunPass charges will soon be showing up again on customer accounts — without late fees

SunPass charges will soon be showing up again on customer accounts — without late fees

It has been more than two weeks since SunPass customers have been able to access their accounts after the Florida toll service took down its website for system maintenance.While SunPass continues to accumulate toll charges since the maintenance perio...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Petition language reveals details of Hillsborough sales tax transportation initiative

Petition language reveals details of Hillsborough sales tax transportation initiative

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections on Friday approved petition language that will let a new group of transportation advocates begin gathering the 48,000 signatures they need to get a sales tax initiative on the Nov. 6 ballot.All ...
Published: 06/15/18
Carlton: A trolley instead of a boondoggle? About time, Tampa

Carlton: A trolley instead of a boondoggle? About time, Tampa

You could rightly call the vintage streetcars that trundle between downtown Tampa and Ybor City big, beautiful boondoggles.Charming?Yes. An integral part of this city’s unique history?Absolutely.And in their current incarnation, overpriced, inefficie...
Published: 06/15/18
Federal judge halts work on Suncoast 2 toll road

Federal judge halts work on Suncoast 2 toll road

U.S. District Judge James S. Moody, Jr. granted a temporary restraining order on Thursday to halt the work that has already begun on the extension of the Suncoast Parkway — aka the controversial "Suncoast 2."The toll road now ends at U.S. 98 at the n...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18
Hillsborough group pushing new referendum on raising sales tax for transportation

Hillsborough group pushing new referendum on raising sales tax for transportation

TAMPA — In 2010, Hillsborough voters soundly rejected a 1 cent sales tax hike backed by their elected leaders to raise billions of dollars for roads, bus expansion and light rail. In 2016, county commissioners helped develop a new transportation plan...
Published: 06/14/18
SunPass apologizes to customers who couldn’t access accounts after website maintenance

SunPass apologizes to customers who couldn’t access accounts after website maintenance

Users were unable to access their SunPass accounts on Monday after the release of a system redesign that took the system’s web site, app and hotlines down for a week.From June 5-11, the SunPass website, hotlines and mobile app were taken down for sys...
Published: 06/14/18
Elon Musk to build 125 mph underground transit line serving Chicago O’Hare

Elon Musk to build 125 mph underground transit line serving Chicago O’Hare

Elon Musk has taken on a task perhaps more challenging than launching rockets into space: getting passengers from Chicago’s O’Hare airport to the Loop in 12 minutes, roughly three to four times as fast as the current taxi journey.The plan for the "Ch...
Published: 06/14/18
This trooper pulled over a driver - then realized the man had delivered him nearly 27 years ago

This trooper pulled over a driver - then realized the man had delivered him nearly 27 years ago

New Jersey state trooper Michael Patterson was on patrol recently when he pulled over a white BMW for a routine traffic stop.He asked the driver for his license and registration, and the two started making small talk. It turned out that the driver, M...
Published: 06/13/18
Fares eliminated on downtown Tampa trolley following FDOT grant

Fares eliminated on downtown Tampa trolley following FDOT grant

TAMPA — Fares on the TECO Line Streetcar in downtown Tampa will be eliminated for three years following a grant funded by the Florida Department of Transportation.The grant provide $2.67 million to Hillsborough Area Regional Transit, allowing it to t...
Published: 06/12/18
Tampa road work forces office workers to wait up to an hour to get out of their parking garage every day

Tampa road work forces office workers to wait up to an hour to get out of their parking garage every day

TAMPA — At 42 floors tall, the largest office building on Florida’s Gulf Coast offers some spectacular views.But good luck getting out of it.Since the start of a $5.7 million street resurfacing project late last year on Kennedy Boulevard and Jackson ...
Published: 06/11/18
Updated: 06/12/18