When the golf cart crossing sign went up at U.S. 19 and Grand Boulevard in Port Richey last week, it did not bring the joy that local enthusiasts had hoped.
The sign showed a big red mark across a golf cart. That means the intersection cannot be crossed by golf carts even though locals have been using it for that for a long time. They had expected that Port Richey would be able to get quick state approval for a sanctioned crossing since New Port Richey got an approved crossing several months ago at Gulf Boulevard.
City officials put up the new signs to make it clear that crossing U.S. 19 in a golf cart is not legal. On the city’s website, officials also note that “golf cart crossing of U.S. Highway 19 is prohibited at any intersection in the City of Port Richey.”
The next phase will include enforcing the signage, the message stated.
“The education phase will be in effect until December 1, 2023, after which time, enforcement measures will begin. The Port Richey Police Department will not conduct on-site monitoring/enforcement but will address violations when observed during routine patrol and will respond to calls for service regarding violation,” the message said.
“With that being said, if numerous calls for service are received, or violations are observed, then on-site monitoring/enforcement can become an alternate course of action.”
Port Richey had asked the Florida Department of Transportation to approve the Grand Boulevard crossing. But the agency recently notified city leaders that they would need to make costly modifications to Grand Boulevard before a crossing could be accepted. Those included adding a dedicated left turn lane and a right and through lane.
During last month’s meeting of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, Port Richey Mayor John Eric Hoover said that the engineering alone on that project could cost more than $70,000 and that was a lot for a small city to absorb. Another location for a possible crossing that has been discussed is in the underpass beneath U.S. 19 at the Cotee River, but that option is far more expensive, officials have said.
At the meeting, County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey and planning organization staff urged Hoover to seek state funding to get the project started.
Hoover said that since the meeting, he has reached out to local lawmakers to see if they could convince the Department of Transportation to loosen their requirements. The city will also see if lawmakers might be willing to help pay for the first phase, since lower priced projects sometimes have better luck getting state funds.
At the same meeting, New Port Richey City Council member Matt Murphy said that his city’s second planned crossing had also run into the same snare. State officials told New Port Richey that they will also have to make road improvements to allow a golf cart crossing at Marine Parkway. A previous request for a third crossing at Main Street and U.S. 19 was rejected outright by the state.
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In New Port Richey, officials have pushed for the crossings so that there could be easier access for residents on the west side of U.S. 19 to get to downtown, where redevelopment in underway.
In Port Richey, Hoover said the idea that a crossing isn’t possible has residents “up in arms ... It’s something that people really want. I think it’s going to be big for the city.”
While golf cart use is growing, U.S. 19 is known as one of the deadliest roads in the country with multiple fatalities each year. The state is spending millions of dollars to address safety along the busy, north-south highway.