The torturous travel around the central portion of Pasco County is about to get a little easier. Pasco County is preparing to improve the local road network with an extension of Collier Parkway north to Parkway Boulevard and to bolster an east-west route by connecting the two portions of Bell Lake Road. Both are welcome but long overdue, and neither should be construed as an adequate alternative for the highly desirable long-term goal of regional mass transit.
Extending Collier Parkway north of its terminus at Hale Road to Parkway Boulevard adjacent to the county utility department's new reservoir carries a $20 million construction price tag. It also carries a lot of common sense. Currently, northbound motorists on Collier must turn east on Hale Road, then south and east again in a goofy dogleg at the back of the Lake Padgett East subdivision just to reach Parkway Boulevard and continue their trip north. It's a frustrating stretch used heavily by parents and school buses because of the two schools located on Parkway Boulevard.
The county's capital improvement plan calls for Collier Parkway to extend later to Ehren Cutoff and points northward in 2016. That is at least 42 years after the idea of the route — then known as Pines Parkway — was conceived as a local alternative to U.S. 41.
Progress toward an improved Bell Lake Road isn't quite that slow-moving, but the work is just beginning now, seven years after the county began talking about removing a berm that separates the two segments of Bell Lake Road as it skirts the Lake Padgett development and ends at the western edge of the adjoining Sable Ridge neighborhood.
Linking the two areas is key to giving motorists another alternative to the heavy traffic at State Road 54 and U.S. 41. When completed, Bell Lake Road will run from the Pasco County office building at U.S. 41 to the 4000 block of Collier Parkway.
It's an imperative connection. Developing the east-west road network in the middle of the county has been hindered by the numerous lakes that interrupt potential routes and the build-out of older subdivisions approved before state rules mandated transportation concurrency. There is no denying the need. Traffic engineers say a single-family home produces 9.5 vehicle trips every weekday due to adults traveling to work, children going to school and assorted trips for shopping and other daily errands.
Some neighbors objected initially, citing fears of the danger of increased traffic on Bell Lake Road. But a greater fear is the continued development of central Pasco without a satisfactory east-west grid of local streets. Linking neighborhoods is a basic element to improved traffic flow. It keeps local traffic off main thoroughfares and allows major arterial routes to serve their intended purpose.
It's certainly preferable to the alternative: Still more traffic trying to get through the junction of U.S. 41 and State Road 54, an intersection state transportation planners already have identified as a candidate for an expensive six-lane overpass in the next decade.