Transportation officials zero in on plan to unclog US 41/SR 54 intersection

The engineer of a plan not chosen created a ruckus at the meeting and was asked to leave.
The Florida Department of Transportation has zeroed in on their proposal for improving the busy intersection of State Road 54 and U.S. 41 in Pasco County.
The Florida Department of Transportation has zeroed in on their proposal for improving the busy intersection of State Road 54 and U.S. 41 in Pasco County. [ Florida Department of Transportation ]
Published Feb. 10, 2023|Updated Feb. 10, 2023

Pasco's county and city leaders were briefed this week on the state’s preferred plan to address the congestion at the intersection of U.S. 41 and State Road 54 in Land O’ Lakes.

The state plans to pursue a road design used in other busy Florida locations, including the one at Roosevelt Boulevard and U.S. 19 in Pinellas County. It would include building an overpass for through-traffic with turns made at the ground level.

While the state has been studying a list of potential costs and benefits of three alternatives, the one chosen still will need further study, according to officials from the Florida Department of Transportation. That is because the version of the intersection they chose has the overpass on State Road 54, but they now also want to look at how that would compare to building the overpass along U.S. 41 instead.

Unclogging the intersection, which can stall motorists for several light cycles even on weekends, has been in the talking phases for years. While adding the new study alternative with the overpass on U.S. 41 will lengthen the process, road construction in whatever configuration is still a long way off.

The cost of the preferred option is estimated at $222 million. No funding is currently anticipated for the project until 2030, officials said, although that could be moved up.

The discussion during Thursday’s Pasco County Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting included a bit of drama.

An engineer who designed one of the other options, an intersection without an overpass, accused the state road department of misrepresenting the traffic conflicts in the chosen model. He also said the agency miscalculated the effects on pedestrians, traffic flow and surrounding properties of his design by not following their own handbook.

“They designed it to fail,” said engineer Greg Parsons, who claimed they had “spurious” intentions. His plan, he said, “is superior in every way.”

He added that the discussion of possibly going with an overpass on U.S. 41 rather than State Road 54 would certainly increase costs and add more conflicts than the version on the table. As officials explained their rationale for the approach they’ve picked, Parsons interrupted from the audience calling the analysis false. A bailiff told him to leave the meeting.

After the presentation, Florida District 7 Department of Transportation Secretary David Gwynn told the board that he expected that Parsons wouldn’t be happy that his alternative wasn’t chosen. He said that Parsons was “a smart guy. He invented a concept,” but it was not clear how the design would work.

Unlike the other alternatives, Parsons’ intersection design has not been built anywhere else and that was part of why it was not chosen. It includes confusing movements and, if it didn’t work in real time, Gwynn said, it could have “failed spectacularly.”