Friday, February 23, 2018
Transportation

Zephyrhills residents oppose plan to make U.S. 301 one-way

ZEPHYRHILLS — Longtime Zephyrhills resident Lora Morrison saw the signs as she was driving by First Church of the Nazarene on 12th Street Thursday night and decided to stop. Inside was an open house and public hearing for Florida Department of Transportation's U.S. 301 widening project, and she wanted her voice to be heard.

"I've never done this before," she said standing before the crowd during the public comment portion of the hearing.

"Just looking at this, we have a small town. We're not Wesley Chapel where there's not a focus of being a smaller town. We're not North Tampa. We're not a Dale Mabry," she said, adding that she's not in favor of a proposal that makes U.S. 301, known locally as Gall Boulevard, a one-way, northbound road. "I can't imagine having 301 a one-way where people just whip down and don't stop to smell the roses."

Morrison, 50, captured the essence of city and community leaders' concerns with that very plan, and she drew the loudest applause of the 10 speakers. All, but one speaker who said he had no preference, were against the transportation department's plan to transform that stretch of U.S. 301 through the city's business district into a one-way road. The concern is that motorists will simply pass through rather than stop, shop and eat at local establishments, because turning around to enter businesses could be cumbersome. The area is also is the focus of city redevelopment and development plans to turn it into a thriving business district.

About 76 people turned out for the two-hour open house and hearing, which was the last public opportunity for community members to voice their opinions about the nearly 2½-mile project designed to alleviate traffic congestion. While only a handful spoke publicly, the majority filled out written comment cards that transportation department staff will review before deciding on a plan.

Because of the community's concerns, the project has for years been stalled while city officials came up with an alternative plan that changes the route of U.S. 301, sweeping it onto Seventh Street so it runs up to the current U.S. 301 and Fort King Road intersection. Under the city's preferred plan, Gall Boulevard remains a two-way, two-lane road.

"Both alternatives are good for moving cars," City Manager Jim Drumm said during the hearing, "but Zephyrhills is more than moving cars."

Todd Vande Berg, city planning and development director, echoed that sentiment, saying a one-way road could crush their vision of redevelopment in the business district.

"As a smaller community we feel that it's extremely important to keep the spine of our city completely accessible," he told the crowd.

Ernest Peeples, 74, whose family has had businesses in Zephyrhills for 70 years, said not only is he against the transportation department's original plan, so are his commercial tenants.

"They all feel like if we make 301 one-way it will harm our businesses," he said during public comments. "We would love to see 301 stay two ways."

A decision on which plan will move forward is expected by the end of April, but construction is still several years out. Right-of-way acquisition — which includes 22 commercial and residential properties with the original plan and 27 properties under the city's preferred plan — is set to begin next year and continue until 2015.

Construction likely wouldn't begin until two years after that. If the Department of Transportation plan is chosen, it would cost about $48 million to complete while the city's plan would cost an estimated $54 million.

Drumm told the crowd that the community's return would outweigh the additional costs for the city's preferred plan.

Comments
Costs nearly double for I-75 interchange in Pasco County

Costs nearly double for I-75 interchange in Pasco County

NEW PORT RICHEY –— The cost of a diamond is getting pricier.The planned "divergent diamond" interchange, intended to ease traffic congestion at Interstate 75 and State Road 56 where Lutz, Land O’Lakes and Wesley Chapel intersect, is going to be more ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Jolley Trolley offers free rides to Clearwater Beach

Jolley Trolley offers free rides to Clearwater Beach

CLEARWATER — Spring break kicked off this week with a program offering free rides on the Jolley Trolley between downtown and Clearwater Beach until April 29.The Park N Ride service will pick up riders at two lots downtown every 15 minutes and drop th...
Published: 02/22/18
New bus routes, times to start on Sunday in Hillsborough

New bus routes, times to start on Sunday in Hillsborough

TAMPA — More than a dozen bus routes in Hillsborough County will have new times, paths and stops starting Sunday.The changes come almost four months after the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority rolled out an entirely new bus network, scrapp...
Published: 02/19/18
After Irma evacuation gridlock, new energy for Interstate 75 options

After Irma evacuation gridlock, new energy for Interstate 75 options

OCALA — In mid-2016, a regional task force that spent almost two years exploring ways to improve safety on a crowded Interstate 75 decided to take a conservative approach: make changes to the highway rather than build or expand other roads. Then Hurr...
Published: 02/18/18
Engineers push back against criticism of bus rapid transit plan

Engineers push back against criticism of bus rapid transit plan

ST. PETERSBURG — Proponents of a bus rapid transit system that would connect St. Petersburg, Tampa and Wesley Chapel pushed back Friday against recent criticism of the proposed plan.The lead engineer told a group of regional leaders that they wanted ...
Published: 02/12/18
Red-light camera challenge gets rough ride at state Supreme Court

Red-light camera challenge gets rough ride at state Supreme Court

TALLAHASSEE — Motorists hoping that the courts will pull the plug on red-light cameras may have hit a roadblock: the Florida Supreme Court.On Wednesday, the court heard arguments in a case that could decide the legality of red-light camera programs a...
Updated one month ago
Hillsborough leaders raise questions about bus rapid transit

Hillsborough leaders raise questions about bus rapid transit

TAMPA — Leaders in Hillsborough politics and transportation are speaking up this week about their concerns with Tampa Bay’s latest proposal to bring transit to the region. Bus rapid transit, known as BRT, emerged last month as the lead o...
Updated one month ago
Shut down Bayshore Boulevard on Sundays? Tampa City Council is skeptical

Shut down Bayshore Boulevard on Sundays? Tampa City Council is skeptical

TAMPA — Shut down Tampa’s iconic Bayshore Boulevard on Sundays? Allow a Gasparilla every weekend, but without the drunken crowds and gaudy pirates? A group of supporters of the "Open Streets" concept pitched the idea Thursday to the Tampa City Counci...
Updated one month ago

She tried to board a flight with her ‘emotional support peacock.’ The airline said no.

Airlines are cracking down on the use of "emotional support animals" — and their case could be strengthened by a woman who tried to bring a peacock onboard a United Airlines flight.First reported by The Jet Set, a travel-focused show, a woman at Newa...
Updated one month ago
Florida among the states with the lowest number of structurally deficient bridges

Florida among the states with the lowest number of structurally deficient bridges

Florida is home to 265 "structurally deficient" bridges, according to a new report from the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, or ARTBA.The report examined federal data and found that there are 54,259 bridges rated "structurally def...
Updated one month ago