Two task forces are grappling with critical decisions on the future of State Road 54 and State Road 56.
The final meeting of the West Task Force was scheduled for March 28, after The Laker/Lutz News’ press deadline.
The East Task Force is scheduled to meet on March 31 at 5:30 p.m., at Rasmussen College.
Eighteen transportation alternatives for the state highway corridors are expected to be whittled down to five alternatives, along with a no-build option.
The Pasco County Metropolitan Planning Organization is the sponsoring agency for what is a three-part review of how to address growing transportation needs on one of Pasco County’s busiest thoroughfares.
The second phase of the review will be a “drill down” into the selected alternatives, said James Edwards, transportation planning manager for the MPO.
The goal is to focus on options that appear reasonable and feasible, Edwards said.
But, the next phase likely won’t get under way until mid- or late-summer.
The task forces will remain in place, but Edwards said there will be additional public meetings in the second phase to gather input from the community at large.
The task forces had the first of three meetings for each group in September.
The West Task Force focused on State Road 54 from U.S. 19, in west Pasco, to U.S. 41 in Land O’ Lakes. The East Task Force looked at State Road 54/State Road 56, from U.S. 41 to Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, east of Interstate 75.
Task force members are from the MPO’s Citizens Advisory Committee, local chambers of commerce, community leaders, developers or their representatives, and residents from east and west Pasco.
In preparation for the upcoming meeting, task force members completed surveys giving their views on the 18 proposals.
Much of the East Task Force discussion has centered on the intersection of State Road 54 and U.S. 41, where state highway officials are proposing to redesign State Road 54 as a flyover crossing above U.S. 41. Toll lanes also are being considered.
Some favor the design, but others strongly oppose the plan as harmful to the businesses that could be displaced.
“I just want to see them stay at grade as much as possible,” said Sandy Graves, chairwoman of the East Task Force and a member of the Central Pasco Chamber of Commerce.
At a prior meeting, some task force members pushed for at-grade solutions and greater use of frontage roads to ease congestion at the intersection.
Suggestions also have been made that the CSX railroad tracks could be adapted for commuter stops.
All options are being looked at, including public transit, Edwards said.
About $150,000 in federal grants funded the initial phase, but the cost could double for the next phase.
Edwards said the county hopes to share costs with the Florida Department of Transportation.
“It’s a state highway,” he said. “What we’re doing will benefit DOT.”
But, final decisions are a long way off, and presently no construction funds are available.
“There’s time to sit back and reflect,” Graves said. “It’s important to get State Road 54 and U.S. 41 correct.”
Published March 30, 2016