DADE CITY — Continuous right-turn lanes on U.S. 19 could be built in 2012 — a year ahead of schedule — under the state's new five-year transportation work plan.
Florida Department of Transportation officials bumped up the construction of the extra lanes from State Road 52 to New York Avenue from 2013 to 2012.
The Metropolitan Planning Organization, which includes county commissioners and mayors of the county's largest cities, approved the plan Thursday. It will be presented to residents at a public hearing set from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Monday. It will be slated for final adoption by July.
Unlike previous years, no projects were cut from the list because of a lack of money.
"To date, nothing has been deferred in Pasco County, so that's a good sign," said Janille Smith-Colin, the county's liaison with the DOT. Instead, a few projects have been moved up. The presentation left members scratching their heads.
"That's all great news," County Commissioner Ted Schrader said, "but what changed from previous meetings where we keep hearing the Legislature whacked the funding?"
Turns out, the county can credit its good fortune to a slow economy.
The program didn't get extra money, DOT planning director Ming Gao said, but the money it did have went further.
"All favorable bids have been coming in," he said. For example, a project estimated to cost $100 million might end up costing only $80 million.
"The citizens will certainly appreciate it," Schrader said.
Added Port Richey Mayor Richard Rober: "A slow economy is helping us right now. Of course inflation in a couple of years could crush us."
MPO members also got more good news from the Florida Turnpike Enterprise. More than $14 million for the Ridge Road Extension interchange at the Suncoast Parkway remains in reserve.
County commissioners were livid last year after learning that the interchange — which would link the first phase of the proposed four-lane Ridge Road extension to the Suncoast Parkway — had been dropped from the Florida Turnpike Enterprise's five-year plan. A month later, transportation officials told state Sen. Mike Fasano that money could be found because resurfacing would cost less than expected.
But the money will have to sit until the permits are approved. Earlier this month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told county officials they were no longer reviewing the decade-old application for the Ridge Road extension. To jump-start that process, Pasco will have to resubmit plans for the $129 million project.
"So it's safely stowed away — is that what you're telling us?" Schrader said of the money for the interchange.
"Yes, it is," said Shannon Estep of the Turnpike Enterprise.
The plan also includes the following:
• Resurfacing of Dale Mabry Highway from County Line Road to U.S. 41, U.S. 19 from the Pinellas County line to Jasmine Boulevard, and U.S. 98 from U.S. 301 to Oak Forest Drive: 2014.
• Preliminary engineering for the widening of State Road 52 from U.S. 41 to Bellamy Brothers Boulevard: 2012. (Construction had been scheduled for 2013.)
• Right of way acquisition on State Road 52 from Bellamy Brothers Boulevard to Old Pasco Road: 2012 and 2013.
• Traffic notification signs for State Road 54 from U.S. 19 to Gunn Highway: 2012.
• Sidewalks for Villa Entrada from Little Road to Riverside Villas, Foggy Ridge Parkway from Timberlawn Court to Cross Lane, Cypress Knoll from Rowan Road to Runnel Drive: 2015.