The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is studying a widening project, which would add capacity to U.S. 301, from Fowler Avenue in Hillsborough County to State Road 56 in Pasco County.
Amber Russo, a project manager for FDOT, provided an update to members of the Pasco County Metropolitan Planning Organization, at its April 14 meeting.
The project’s purpose it to improve safety for motorists, and to improve mobility for pedestrians and bicycles, Russo said.
“Safety is a key element for this project,” Russo said.
“During the five-year period that we studied, from 2015 to 2019, there were 464 crashes, which involved 16 fatalities, 338 injuries, 24 head-on collisions, and five crashes involving a pedestrian.
“A portion of this project, the southern end, the crash rate is almost double the state average,” she said.
She also noted that based on the 2040 projection — which puts the volumes at 29,000 to 48,000 — the road would be operating at a Level of Service F in both directions, during peak hours.
Justin Hall, also from FDOT, noted the current volumes on the road are 12,000 to 14,000.
Presently, this stretch of U.S. 301 is a two-lane, undivided roadway, with a posted speed varying from 50 mph to 60 mph, through the corridor, Russo said. The existing right of way varies from 100 feet to 200 feet wide.
“U.S. 301 is an important north-south corridor,” Russo said. It connects regionally significant corridors, such as I-75, I-4 and state road 56, 54 and 52.
“It also connects regional centers in Zephyrhills and Temple Terrace to the Tampa Bay area,” Russo said.
The proposed project, which would cost an estimated $200 million, has not yet been funded.
Proposed improvements are divided into two segments.
The southern portion would be from Fowler Avenue to Stacy Road.
“This is a suburban, typical section: with widening to four lanes, divided with a raised 30-foot median. We also have paved 5-foot outside shoulders, a 6-foot sidewalk on the east side, and 12-foot shared-use path along the west side,” Russo said.
The design speed for that segment is 55 mph. The total right of way varies from 169 feet to 200 feet wide.
The north portion of the project would be Stacy Road to State Road 56.
This would be a more-rural section of the road. It would be a four-lane divided road, with a 40-foot depressed median.
It would have 5-foot paved shoulders and a 12-foot shared-use path on the west side.
The design speed would be 65 mph. The total right of way width would be 235 feet.
Russo told the Pasco MPO board that some changes are expected, based on public comments.
Hall said those issues essentially fall into three categories: environmental concerns, concerns about widening the road beyond Hillsborough’s urban service area, and questions about increasing capacity on a rural highway.
Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore said apparently Hillsborough is not aware of the planned projects near U.S. 301 and State Road 56, on both sides of the county line.
Moore noted that he used to frequently travel U.S. 301, when he had a private business.
“Wow, that was scary,” Moore said. “If you go off the shoulder, you’re in a ditch and you definitely don’t want to cross the center line.”
He thinks it makes perfect sense to widen U.S. 301.
“We’re at the point in this region where we need to get ahead. All we hear from our citizens is, ‘Why didn’t you do this before?
“Well, here’s that perfect opportunity. Let’s get ahead of the game, because it’s coming. It’s already coming.”
Commissioner Ron Oakley agreed.
“I’ve already gotten emails from people about congestion, when they go to (U.S.) 301, from (State Road) 56. It’s crowded. It’s terrible.
“If this road had already been done … a person would not have died this morning at 2:45, when they had a head-on collision and they closed 301.”
Hall said there were actually two fatalities in that crash. He also told the MPO board that the state roads department plans to proactively address some intersection signaling needs along U.S. 301.
Published April 20, 2022
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