Between Zephyrhills and Dade City, a ribbon of asphalt connects two cities with distinct characteristics.
At either end, U.S. 301 is a gateway into two versions of small town America.
Between those places, motorists are treated to scenic vistas, rolling hills and wooded valleys.
“Anyone who drives it understands the uniqueness,” said James Edwards, director of Pasco County’s Metropolitan Planning Organization.
But, there are pressures building along U.S. 301, as developers make room for new subdivisions, shops and offices.
The test is how to make room for growth, but also preserve the character of two cities and the state highway in between.
Edwards and Randy Mejeur, associate principal with AECOM, presented a long-range strategic vision plan on Jan. 25 for development along U.S. 301, from Kossik Road to the U.S. 98 bypass.
The plan emerged from three public workshops that gathered input from area residents, developers and business owners.
Pasco MPO funded the vision efforts. Representatives of Zephyrhills, Dade City and the Florida Department of Transportation participated.
“We think we’ve packaged a consensus out there,” Edwards said. “There really was no foundation. I think we’ve built the foundation.”
Mejeur said the workshops were heavily attended.
About 72 percent who participated either approved or strongly approved the proposed vision. About 11 percent either opposed or strongly opposed the plan and 18 percent was neutral.
Highlights of the vision plan are:
- To maintain four lanes, with a trail system
- To build reverse frontage roads, parallel to U.S. 301, but for use by local traffic
- To have a minimum number of traffic signals and median cuts
- To support development, but to have landscaping, buffering, and preservation of hills and vistas
- To create unique gateways for Zephyrhills and Dade City
“They didn’t want to see Zephyrhills and Dade City all mashed up,” Mejeur said. “They wanted to keep distinct looks.”
And, they didn’t want the highway to be lined with strip malls.
Trail connections were priorities, too, Mejeur said.
“If we can preserve the character while accommodating traffic, I think that would be great,” said Zephyrhills Councilman Lance Smith.
Councilman Charlie Proctor had concerns about right-of-way purchases.
Edwards said, “We would see it as a friendly buy and not a condemnation. It is possible to come to terms.”
The state transportation department began resurfacing U.S. 301 in 2015, from Kossik Road to Bougainvillea Avenue, near the U.S. 98 bypass. The approximately six-mile road project also includes construction of a 10-foot wide multi-use trail paralleling the highway. Completion of the project is expected in the spring.
The new trail eventually is slated to link with Hardy Trail in Dade City.
Mejeur said a bicycle and pedestrian analysis for the area should be done “to look at how movement occurs, so that they continue to occur in a safe way.”
Next steps include the Pasco planning organization partnering with the state transportation department on a realignment study for U.S. 98 and Clinton Avenue. There is no funding as yet for the realignment, but other road projects to extend Clinton and to realign State Road 52 are in design phase.
The Dade City Council is expected to receive a similar presentation on the U.S. 301 vision plan soon.
Published February 3, 2016