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Bowen: This survey says you’re stuck in traffic

The annual National Citizens Survey found Pasco County residents increasingly concerned about road safety and congestion
Heavy traffic congestion at the intersection of U.S. 41 and State Road 54 in central Pasco. [JONES, OCTAVIO | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Aug. 27

The survey says: People are impatient.

We didn’t need Steve Harvey to tell us this answer.

We want to get from here to there without a lot of stress from white-knuckled driving.

It is one of the results of Pasco County’s annual National Citizens Survey of its citizenry.

The poll found that people are tired of sitting in traffic, hitting what seems like an endless stream of red lights or watching speeders zoom by without a patrol car in sight.

Hold your thought that Captain Obvious designed this question.

If nothing else, it’s a shared experience, because we’re all moving slowly.

On the morning commute one day last week, the northbound traffic on U.S. 41 backed up a mile from the State Road 52 intersection. That was better than the motorists heading east on SR 52. That line of bumper-to-bumper vehicles stretched 3 miles from the U.S. 41 intersection all the way to the Suncoast Parkway.

It’s no better in the evenings when the northbound back-up on U.S. 41 extends nearly to Connerton where the four-lane road shrinks to two. Similar bottlenecks are visible on SR 52 at Curley Road in San Antonio, at the Interstate 75 interchange at State Road 56 and at U.S. 41 and State Road 54.

It might be best summed up this way: “Driving here is miserable,’’ wrote a reader commenting on our recent account of the county’s long-range transportation plan.

Indeed.

But it’s not like we haven’t known this.

Transportation "continues, obviously, to be a concern for all of us,’’ said County Commissioner Mike Moore.

Pasco began participating in its version of the national survey a decade ago. The idea is to find out what’s important to residents to help guide planning and budgeting decisions. The survey goes to 1,600 randomly selected households and also is available online, where more than 1,700 people participated.

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A lot of the answers duplicated results from previous years. People said public safety, the economy and mobility are top concerns under the category labeled “livable community.’’

Of the three, transportation has grown in importance. It is the only concern in which Pasco County ranked lower than the national benchmark. That means more people in Pasco feel mobility must improve than a typical person living elsewhere around the nation.

The survey showed that 99 percent of the respondents said safe, uncongested roads were important to their quality of life. But just 43 percent gave a positive score to traffic enforcement. Scores also dropped for how the public feels about the adequacy of road repairs, traffic flow on major streets and ease of car travel.

It overshadowed the county’s improved scores on how the public rates the quality of government services, its customer service, the ease of bus travel, governance and the overall ranking of the county as good or excellent place to live.

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So what’s to be done?

Better traffic enforcement likely would require an investment from the state of Florida. The Florida Highway Patrol has 24 troopers assigned to Pasco County, home to 540,000 residents. That equates to just five or six troopers on duty at any given time, and they were responsible for investigating approximately 85 percent of the 5,000 motor vehicle accidents in Pasco County this year.

There’s not much time to spot radar when you’re running from one accident scene to another.

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Congestion, however, is another story.

The just-opened SR 56 extension should ease traffic on SR 54, which is being widened between Wesley Chapel and Zephyrhills. Work has begun on widening SR 52 between the parkway and U.S. 41, and next year work will start on adding two lanes to U.S. 41. The state is building a new SR 52 south of San Antonio and St. Leo to connect to Clinton Avenue in Dade City. And work continues on the divergent diamond interchange at SR 56 and I-75, which Moore called “one of the most miserable places right now when it comes to sitting in traffic.’’

RELATED: State to fly over past traffic woes

Meanwhile, plans are in the works for a new I-75 interchange at Overpass Road. And construction money to widen SR 52 from Land O’ Lakes to Darby is expected to be included in the next update of the state Department of Transportation’s five-year work plan, said Richard Moss, the department’s regional director of transportation development.

So, yes, we have to be patient.

But commissioners, noting all the current and pending road construction, have another suggestion. Be sure to take the survey again in a couple of years because things are going to get better.


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