Cost rules out U.S. 41 underpass

Even dropping the cost from more than half a billion to $250 million, an underpass at U.S. 41 and State Road 54 would be too pricey.

Members of the Pasco County Metropolitan Planning Organization have opted not to add the underpass – also called a tunnel – to a list of recommended road designs to ease traffic congestion at U.S. 41 and State Road 54.

Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore said “it’s worth looking at everything.”

But, the tunnel option is “cost prohibitive.”

Pasco County’s Metropolitan Planning Organization decided against building an underpass at U.S. 41 and State Road 54. (File)

Finding a solution is important because the intersection is one of Pasco’s busiest with about 100,000 vehicles passing through daily.

Members of Pasco County’s Metropolitan Planning Organization in April got sticker shock from a study that estimated the underpass would cost $550 million.

Pasco County Commissioner Jack Mariano then persuaded the MPO board to delay its decision for more research.

He questioned the initial costs, suggesting that MPO staff search for existing, and shorter, underpasses in other municipalities.

“I don’t think they found what I was looking for,” Mariano said.

But, he added: “I feel better with these numbers as far as being realistic.”

The initial study considered an underpass of 6,000 linear feet.

The new data looked at costs for an underpass of 2,500 linear feet.

Building the tunnel would have used a technique known as “cut and cover.” This involves building a deep trench, with walls, and then covering over that.

Less expensive options for dealing with traffic at U.S. 41 and State Road 54 called for elevated lanes at the intersection. The most expensive of two alternatives presented to the MPO board cost about $159 million, including about $50 million for right of way purchases.

With the underpass eliminated, MPO board members approved four alternatives, including a no build solution, recommended by a volunteer task force.

The recommended alternatives include a flyover, express and toll lanes, an at-grade level system of parallel roads, and dedicated bus lanes.

Those recommendations came from the task force, after about two years of sifting through data and road designs.

The work of the task force is part of a three-phase study of the State Road 54 and State Road 56 corridor, from Bruce B. Downs Boulevard on the east to U.S. 19 on the west.

Most recently, the task force was asked to focus on two intersections: Little Road and State Road 54 in New Port Richey, and U.S. 41 and State Road 54 in Land O’ Lakes.

For U.S. 41 and State Road 54, task force members whittled 18 alternatives, and no build, down to the four options approved by the MPO.

The next step is for the Florida Department of Transportation to dig deeper into the details, and costs of the recommended projects. That could take a year, according to MPO staff members.

Public comment also will be sought, but a time schedule hasn’t been determined yet.

Published May 16, 2018

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