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Pasco drivers look out: Golf carts part of the traffic mix on U.S. 19

New Port Richey has established a golf cart crossing at Gulf Drive.
 
A golf cart crossing on U.S. 19 at Gulf Drive in New Port Richey has been approved by the Florida Department of Transportation. The city hopes to add at least one more in the future at Marine Parkway. Other communities, like this one in Sun City Center at U.S. Highway 301, already allow golf carts to cross busy roads.
A golf cart crossing on U.S. 19 at Gulf Drive in New Port Richey has been approved by the Florida Department of Transportation. The city hopes to add at least one more in the future at Marine Parkway. Other communities, like this one in Sun City Center at U.S. Highway 301, already allow golf carts to cross busy roads. [ O'ROURKE, SKIP | St. Petersburg Times ]
Published July 19, 2023|Updated July 23, 2023

Pasco County’s busy U.S. Highway 19, considered among the most dangerous roads in America, has just gotten a new feature — a golf cart crossing at Gulf Drive in New Port Richey.

At the urging of residents longing to drive their golf carts between coastal residential communities and the city’s redeveloping downtown and shopping and dining areas, New Port Richey has pursued crossings on U.S. 19. The Florida Department of Transportation required some intersection upgrades but earlier this month granted that permission at Gulf Drive.

“It’s a great start,” New Port Richey City Council member Matt Murphy said about the new crossing. “It’s a beginning because before we had none.”

State law prohibits operating golf carts on public streets unless local governments determine that such travel is safe. State road officials also must review and approve the location and design of traffic control devices needed to provide safe passage across any road in the state highway system, such as U.S. 19.

New Port Richey first hoped for crossings at Gulf Drive, Marine Parkway and Main Street. State officials said the Main Street location, where the city is planning a major city entrance landscaping and welcome sign, was likely too complex for a golf cart crossing.

Murphy said that he expects the next crossing at Marine Parkway to be ready soon as well.

“Marine Parkway will be a lot bigger deal because it will allow crossing from Gulf Harbors to New Port Richey,” he said.

Matt Murphy, New Port Richey City Council member
Matt Murphy, New Port Richey City Council member [ Matt Murphy ]

The state approved the Gulf Drive location with the condition the intersection be posted with traffic signs to notify motorists about the golf carts crossing. It opened Friday.

The city’s golf cart ordinance allows golf carts to operate on city streets within the New Port Richey’s municipal boundaries except Congress and Madison streets, Massachusetts Avenue and Trouble Creek Road.

A year ago, Vox called the U.S. 19 stretch in Pasco “the deadliest road in America” with 34 fatal pedestrian crashes from 2014 through 2021. Several months after the publication, state road officials announced plans to spend millions of dollars for new safety features.

Several proposals have been discussed over the years that could potentially allow golf carts to travel back and forth across U.S. 19 without affecting vehicle traffic flow. Those include building a trail under the Pithlachascotee River Bridge on U.S. 19 that links the cities of Port Richey and New Port Richey. That project hasn’t materialized.

A pedestrian, trail and golf cart bridge over U.S. 19 near Marine Parkway also has been proposed. Murphy, also chairperson of the Pasco Metropolitan Planning Organization, said the $10 million price tag would require funding beyond what the city can afford. State transportation officials have said money is not available for golf cart facilities.

Murphy said he hoped that changed.

Golf carts are “not going away,” he said. “It’s just becoming a way of life.”