It’s no secret to those living or working in Pasco County that serious attention is needed to make it easier to get from place to place.
Traffic congestion and traffic safety are two key concerns that the public has identified so far, in an online survey conducted by Kimley-Horn, the consultants working with the Pasco County Metropolitan Planning Organization (Pasco MPO) on the long-range transportation plan update.
The plan has been christened Innovate Pasco 2050.
Jonathan Whitehurst, a consultant from Kimley-Horn, briefed the Pasco Metropolitan Planning Organization’s board at its Jan. 11 meeting, regarding what’s being done to prepare the plan.
The Pasco MPO board, made up of elected leaders from Pasco County, Dade City, Zephyrhills, New Port Richey and Port Richey, is responsible for addressing transportation needs and setting priorities across Pasco.
In general, Innovate Pasco 2050 will identify current and anticipated transportation needs in the county for the next 20-plus years, Whitehurst said.
The plan is being updated at the same time the county is updating its long-range comprehensive plan.
Innovate Pasco 2050 will consider all modes of transportation — which include motorized vehicles, public transportation, bicycles, walking, freight and goods movement, and air travel.
Planning efforts will involve analyzing the county’s current transportation system and its projected growth to identify needs and set priorities.
The initial stakeholder interviews and community workshops were held on Dec. 12 and Dec. 13.
“We’re getting really, really good participation through the online survey. To date, with the online survey, we have 930 participants,” Whitehurst told the Pasco MPO board. “That created a lot of work for the consultant team because that has already generated over 13,000 data points and over 1,400 written comments. So, that’s a lot of information for us to kind of go through and summarize. But we like that.”
The survey can be done in as few as 5 minutes, or, it can take longer, depending on the level of detail in the responses.
Based on the level of feedback so far, people seem to be putting in more time, Whitehurst said.
During his presentation, he asked the MPO board for some feedback.
He identified eight transportation themes and asked them to rank them in order of importance.
These are the themes they ranked: Improve Transit Service, Improve Transportation Connectivity, Increase Transportation Choices, Maintain Roadways, Promote Economic Growth, Reduce Congestion, Reduce Crash/Injuries and deaths and Shorten Vehicle Trips.
The top three themes identified in the boardroom were: Economic growth, congestion and connectivity. The bottom three were shortening vehicle trips, increasing transportation choices and improving transit service.
The public’s response was different, based on the 930 surveys.
The public identified congestion as the top issue, safety as the second highest and maintenance of existing facilities as number three, Whitehurst said.
The consultant also noted the survey has a map, where people can place pins on areas where they believe a transportation improvement is needed.
That improvement can involve a roadway, a trail, transit or other type of transportation facility, Whitehurst said.
So far, the map has about 2,000 pins indicating needed improvements. That doesn’t correlate to 2,000 separate suggestions because many pins can be clustered at a single location, he explained.
Along those lines, though, Whitehurst asked the board: What is the first project you would construct, if funding wasn’t an issue?
Their responses included the Orange Belt Trail and the intersection of U.S. 41/State Road 54 .
“The Orange Belt Trail was certainly a topic that came up in those meetings that we had back in December,,” Whitehurst said.
Safety along U.S. 19 was another issue that came up, when focusing specifically on bicycle and pedestrian improvements, he added.
Another project that’s been identified involves the widening of U.S. 301, between Tampa and Zephyrhills, he said.
That potential widening offers a great example of why it’s important to work with neighborhood MPOs, because a portion of U.S. 301 is in Pasco’s MPO and another portion is in Hillsborough’s MPO, Whitehurst said.
Another comment that has frequently surfaced deals with a lack of east-west roads in the county, the consultant said.
The online survey also asks the public to assign budget priorities to different types of transportation projects. Of the 930 responses, the public clearly identified roadway capacity and roadway maintenance as top priorities, Whitehurst said.
While the initial work has been informative, much work remains to be done, the consultant said.
In coming months, community members will have additional opportunities to participate in shaping the vision and direction of the long-range transportation plan.
That input will be received both through in-person meetings and in digital activities conducted through the planning project’s website.
Innovate Pasco 2050 “really will be the road map that the county will use through the MPO to fund transportation projects through the year 2050,” Whitehurst said.
It will define what projects are needed to address the county’s transportation needs through the year 2050 and beyond.
Once those projects are defined, then a determination will be made regarding local and federal sources that are available.
A priority list will be created and a cost feasible plan will identify how much of that work is possible, based on funding sources.
Whitehurst said that Kimley-Horn will create a State of the System Report, which will review existing and projected conditions. That report will be done in late January or early February, he said.
A needs plan will be done, which will include all types of transportation projects the consultants believe the county needs to look at through the year 2050 and beyond. That is expected to be completed in mid-March.
The cost feasible plan is expected to be completed toward the end of April.
The report and executive summary are scheduled to be written by the end of June, but final adoption is not expected until later in the year, Whitehurst said.
Do you have thoughts about Pasco County’s roads, trails, sidewalks and other forms of transportation? Get involved in the county’s long-range transportation planning by signing up for email alerts and taking an online survey at InnovatePasco.com.
Published January 24, 2024