1. Opinion

No-build is best alternative for central Pasco businesses

Published Dec. 30, 2015

Even if a partial elevated highway seems more efficient for vehicle traffic, the counter to that is: At what cost? What we are talking about is more than just a transportation issue. It is about the community. It is about neighborhood development. It is about the environment. It is about lowering the value of adjacent properties. It is about moving people, not just cars.

This is a plan that is going to severely affect retail businesses and development along the State Road 54/U.S. 41 intersection and drastically change the landscape of Land O'Lakes. We have been assured that businesses affected by this plan will be relocated. But we don't know where. These businesses belong in Land O'Lakes.

We are not in favor of either of the two options presented to us by Florida Department of Transportation, as we do not believe they are in the best interest of our businesses, the future of our community or the future of Pasco that seeks to have our residents live and work here. We submit what the FDOT did to U.S. 41 when widening it as testament to our disbelief that the impact to our businesses will be minimal.

We ask that you do not just look at the immediate use of the road but at the future of what the intersection could be one day. Transportation is changing and will be vastly different in 20 years. Some things, however, will never change. People's desires to live and work in aesthetically pleasing places where they can share a sense of community and identity will be the same in 2040 as it is today.

We are not against development, but development should never be done for the benefit of one group at the expense of so many others. We ask that the FDOT and the county consider alternatives such as an at-grade intersection like the divergent diamond now being planned for the Interstate 75/State Road 56 interchange. Perhaps you could work with graduate students to design a solution similar to this idea designed by a graduate student.

Consider the future of the CSX rail being used for public transit. Consider buying back entitlements along the corridor to alleviate future traffic and promote the open spaces of our new county slogan "open spaces, vibrant places."

Consider the future purchase of the four corners of the intersection to lease or sell to developers for a small, planned urban town center and perhaps a train station.

Continue to pursue Ridge Road and other east-west and north-south roads that would take traffic off the SR 54/SR 56 corridor and perhaps, one day, support businesses that employ our Pasco residents

At this time, the no-build option may be the option that best serves our businesses and residents until such time that other alternatives have been thoroughly investigated.

Again, we are requesting a public workshop to give our businesses and residents an opportunity to explore other alternatives that may serve our community better. We look forward to working with the DOT to achieve this objective.

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Elayne Bassinger is president of the Central Pasco Chamber of Commerce board of directors.