An underpass for U.S. 41/State Road 54?

Talk of solving traffic jams at U.S. 41 and State Road 54 often centers on building elevated lanes to ease massive numbers of vehicles through the intersection.

But now, Pasco County’s Metro Planning Organization wants to toss in a new solution – an underpass that would tunnel under the intersection.

Pasco County will consider an underpass as a solution to traffic gridlock at U.S. 41 and State Road 54. (File)

Consultants with Tindale-Oliver will complete a $15,000 study to determine if the underpass would work, and what the potential costs would be. The study, which will also consider an underpass at Little Road and State Road 54, is expected to take 60 days to 90 days.

“We should be able to see every possible option that is available,” said Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore.

Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey agreed.

“I think we should see if it’s an option or not,” she said.

The study’s answers will determine whether to add the underpass to a list of recommendations already produced by a volunteer task force. The task force for “Vision 54/56” has spent about two years on the matter.

They whittled 18 recommendations to four recommendations. Their choices included a system of parallel frontage roads at-grade level and elevated express lanes at major intersections. No build also is an option, but underpasses weren’t in the mix.

Task force member Sandy Graves said digging underground raises concerns about sinkholes. “How would that work?” she asked.

The MPO board, which reviews transportation matters, is composed of Pasco County commissioners, and elected officials of the county’s cities. David Gwynn, secretary of District 7 for the Florida Department of Transportation, is a nonvoting advisor.

The board unanimously approved funds for the study at the Jan. 11 meeting in Dade City. Board members tabled a review and vote on the recommendations from the task force.

If the underpass is deemed feasible, the county could ask the task force to reconvene. The cost of the study initially was $35,000, which included the consultants facilitating a task force meeting with documentation and additional analysis.

MPO board members balked at the additional $20,000 of cost, choosing instead to explore holding a future task force meeting with county staff members.

Trinity resident and commercial real estate agent Charles Puccini spoke during public comment and urged the board to carefully consider their final recommendations. He said the roadwork on U.S. 19 has made area businesses less visible and accessible.

“Make sure the solutions do not effectively block and damage the economy of Pasco County,” he said.

Regarding the task force, Puccini said: “It’s a great idea what you’re doing here.”

Published January 24, 2018

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