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Pasco County's choice poor on billboard tradeoff

Last year, the Pasco Sheriff's Office labeled a Land O'Lakes intersection as the most dangerous in Pasco County. A month later, the Pasco County Commission approved another distraction to motorists there — a new billboard.

Clearly, budget data isn't the only information not being shared by two public agencies.

Installers erected that billboard last week, putting elevated advertising at the northeast corner of Collier Parkway and State Road 54, an intersection deputies flooded with patrols last year after it ranked as the No. 1 spot for vehicle crashes in Pasco County caused by aggressive drivers. (By year's end, county data showed the intersection was the site of 62 accidents, putting several other locations ahead of it.)

The intersection remains problematic because of the volume of north-south cars attempting to go through the traffic light during rush hour and by a county-approved curb cut on Collier providing access to a convenience store-pizza shop that is dangerously close to SR 54. Adding another billboard for motorists to glance at while maneuvering the congestion makes little sense.

But that is the deal approved by commissioners in July 2009, an agreement that on its surface would appear to benefit the public by getting rid of three west Pasco billboards in exchange for the new one at Collier. Instead, it simply brings the visual clutter to a more prominent location.

The county banned new billboards in 1999, but negotiated the new location with Clear Channel after the company lost two signs to the state Department of Transportation widening of County Line Road in Hudson. As part of the deal, Clear Channel agreed to dismantle a third board in the 8500 block of SR 52 in Hudson.

It was not an equitable trade. That commercial stretch of SR 52 is in need of redevelopment — the sign was adjacent to an abandoned gasoline station — and DOT statistics showed 29,500 vehicles passing the Hudson sign location each day. Now, Clear Channel gets additional access to one of the busiest intersections in central Pasco where the state counted 56,000 cars traveling daily along that stretch of SR 54.

Pursuing the swap is understandable, because state law encourages governments to accommodate those who lose property through condemnation. However, allowing additional, unsightly roadside clutter at a dangerous intersection is not prudent. The county needs to pick a more comparable location the next time these circumstances arise and would be wise to consider traffic counts and crash data before acquiescing to new outdoor advertising.

Pasco County's choice poor on billboard tradeoff 06/03/10 [Last modified: Thursday, June 3, 2010 5:12pm]
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