County Administrator John Gallagher indicated Tuesday that Pasco should spend $500,000 to fix a dangerous and poorly planned intersection that has dogged the county for close to a decade.
The question now is whether Pasco should spend $800,000.
That's the most likely scenario considering Pasco's response to an offer from Hillsborough County to split the $1-million expense of fixing the dog-legged intersection of County Line Road, Livingston Avenue and Collier Parkway on the south-central Pasco border. The price is attractive, down from an estimated $1.7-million, because of a property owner's agreement to donate the necessary right of way.
Hillsborough offered Pasco $500,000 to rebuild a stretch of County Line Road to meet Collier Parkway and install a cul de sac where County Line and Livingston now intersect. In exchange, Hillsborough asked Pasco to drop long-range plans to widen Willow Bend Parkway to four lanes and to finance the cost of a red light if warranted on a separate intersection there.
Tuesday, Pasco commissioners said they want Hillsborough's cash with no strings attached. The answer is not unreasonable. Tying immediate improvements of a misaligned intersection to a road project 10 years away is ill-advised. Willow Bend Parkway, currently being extended southwest to intersect with County Line Road at U.S. 41, is intended to provide an additional east-west route through Land O'Lakes. Promising to keep it a two-lane road is shortsighted considering the growth in Central Pasco.
In light of Pasco's reaction, Pat Bean, deputy administrator in Hillsborough County, said Wednesday she would recommend Hillsborough commissioners rescind the offer and instead stick to an agreement reached 10 months ago in which Hillsborough said it would pay $300,000 toward the cost of the improved intersection.
That would leave Pasco with two options: pick up the additional $200,000 or select a cheaper fix that would connect Collier Parkway to County Line Road, but kill the cul de sac sought by seven Pasco homeowners fronting County Line Road.
If safety is the true concern, then Pasco should expedite the cheaper alternative. Though homeowners won't be happy, it is the most practical solution, particularly in an approaching budget year when the county's property tax rate is inching close to the Constitutional ceiling. Finding extra cash won't be easy and likely would mean delaying a capital project elsewhere.
Additionally, east-west traffic on County Line Road is expected to drop significantly when State Road 56, running from Cypress Creek to Interstate 75, is completed in 2002.
The offer from Hillsborough County has been on the table for 10 months. The poorly designed intersection has existed for 10 years. It is time to fix it. Now.