Hearing set this week for public comment
By B.C. Manion
Residents and business owners can weigh in on two very different alternatives at a public hearing this week to discuss the fate of proposed improvements for US 301 in Zephyrhills.
One alternative proposed by the state Department of Transportation could have a harmful effect on the city’s redevelopment goals and could threaten commercial activity along the highway corridor, said Jim Drumm, city manager.
The other alternative, proposed by the city, could handle additional traffic without adversely affecting local businesses, Drumm said.
State Department of Transportation (DOT) officials will answer questions and field comments on both alternatives from 5-7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 23 at First Church of the Nazarene, 6151 12th St. in Zephyrhills.
Both alternatives are intended to accommodate future traffic needs along the US 301/SR 41 corridor, known locally as Gall Boulevard.
The DOT’s study limits are from SR 39 south to CR 54, a distance of about 2.6 miles. The portion of the project from the beginning of the study limits going to C Avenue is within the county, and the rest is within the city.
Gall Boulevard is a two-lane undivided road, with traffic moving in both directions within the study limits. Sixth Street is currently a two-lane, one-way road, with traffic flowing to the south; and Seventh Street is a two-lane, one-way road, with traffic flowing to the north.
The proposal that the city favors is referred to as the Sixth Street and Seventh Street One-Way Pair Alternative.
In essence, it calls for:
–Keeping US 301 a two-lane road, flowing in both directions, from A Avenue to North Avenue.
–Expanding US 301 (Gall Boulevard) to a three-lane, one-way northbound roadway south of A Avenue to Corey Street, connecting to Seventh Street.
–Widening Sixth Street to three lanes, with southbound traffic heading from Corey Street to 16th Avenue.
–Seventh Street would be widened to three lanes, with the one-way, northbound roadway beginning at A Avenue and ending at the US 301/Fort King Road intersection.
This alternative passes through segments of the historic district between Fourth and Fifth avenues and would eliminate a number of parking spaces. The design speed would be 40 miles per hour, with an anticipated posted speed limit of 35 miles per hour.
The other alternative is called the Sixth Street and US 301/SR 41 (Gall Boulevard) One-Way Pair Alternative.
In essence, this alternative calls for:
— Converting US 301 (Gall Boulevard) from a two-way, two-lane road, into a one-way, three-lane road for northbound travelers, from Corey Street to Geiger Road/North Avenue.
–Converting Sixth Street to a three-lane, one-way southbound road from Corey Street to 16th Avenue.
–Leaving Seventh Street as it is.
The design speed would be for 40 miles per hour, with an anticipated posted speed of 35 miles per hour.
Or, the third option would be a “no build” alternative, which would mean leaving the roads as they are, and doing only safety improvements or maintenance repairs.
Gordana Jovanovic, a project manager for DOT, said the state transportation agency is interested in hearing public reaction to both alternatives being presented for roadway improvements. She said no money has been budgeted for construction yet, but money has been allocated in the DOT’s five-year plan to acquire right-of-way.
Drumm said both improvement alternatives would do the job of moving traffic.
“The city’s concern is: ‘How will it affect the business district?’” he said.
Three-laning Gall Boulevard (US 301) and making it one-way would reduce potential business for commercial properties lining the highway commercial corridor, he said.
“Our concern really is for the business district that will be caught in the middle. Right now, traffic is slower. People can pull off in parking lots and go to Wendy’s or go to the bank. Our concern is that these businesses will be caught up, almost in the median, of a high-speed freeway,” Drumm said.
If the city’s alternative is selected, the city would dedicate its rights-of-way for Sixth and Seventh streets to the state, and the state would dedicate its right-of-way for Gall Boulevard to the city.
Another advantage of the city’s plan is that some businesses would have the opportunity for double frontage, such as Wendy’s which has frontage on Gall Boulevard, but owns property all of the way to Seventh Street, Drumm said.
The city would like to expand its Community Redevelopment Area to include the highway area, near its historic downtown, to support its vision for revitalization. But it will have to reconsider those ideas if the highway becomes a one-way road in that area, Drumm said. Residents and business owners have offered strong support at previous public meetings for the city’s approach, but it is important they
voice their opinions during this week’s public hearing to make it part of the state’s official record, Drumm said.
“They’re going to make a decision soon after that. They want to see how much public support there really is from business, citizens and travelers,” Drumm said.
Thursday, Feb. 23, 5-7 p.m.
Department of Transportation staff will be on hand to field questions at 5 p.m.; a formal presentation and public comment will occur at 6 p.m., after that more questions will be answered until 7 p.m.
The meeting will be at First Church of the Nazarene, 6151 12th St., Zephyrhills.