Pasco County officials are lauding a new traffic signal in Zephyrhills — for making a busy intersection a little less dangerous.
The fully operable traffic light at Eiland Boulevard and Handcart Road was installed in time for the 7 a.m., start of the school year on Aug. 13.
At a ribbon-cutting ceremony, Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore said the project has been “a main priority” for Zephyrhills and the county since he stepped into office in 2014.
“It was much-needed,” Moore said. “It’s a life-safety issue, so that’s what’s most important. We have to think about our citizens’ lives and their safety, and this is obviously done to stop potential accidents.”
It, too, has been on fellow County Commissioner Ron Oakley’s radar for some time.
He explained: “I’ve been here my entire life, so I know so many different people that this light affects. Before this light was installed, many accidents were happening.
“I can’t tell you how many people I’ve run across and said, ‘Thank you for getting that light.’”
Pasco County engineering services director Margaret Smith called the traffic signal “a definite, definite need” for Zephyrhills — labeling it “a good intersection control project.”
“Just watch (traffic) coming through compared to the craziness it was before — it totally controls the intersection,” she said.
Smith pointed out previous struggles for motorists to make left-hand turns east from Handcart onto two-lane Eiland Boulevard.
“I’ve been there all kinds of times of day, and it was very difficult. I think they needed to slow it down a little bit,” Smith said.
Such turns were also something Oakley experienced, as a nearby resident: “You can take a right turn here fairly easily, but you take a left turn and you’re taking a chance,” he said.
Along with the traffic signal, Eiland and Handcart had other improvements, including guardrails and road resurfacing.
Reflective pavement markings also will be installed at the intersection in about a month, officials say.
The Pasco County Commission approved the design plans for the project in 2016. Construction began in March 2018.
Before construction, the county completed a 30-day traffic operations study at the intersection to collect traffic data.
The analysis showed the traffic signal was warranted “based on Handcart (Road) southbound approach volumes and the amount of left turn vehicles turning east onto Eiland Boulevard.”
The study also found that two crashes occurred from Jan. 1, 2013 to Dec. 31, 2013. The crashes “may have been prevented with the installation of a traffic signal,” the study found.
From Jan. 1, 2012 to Dec. 31, 2014, the study also documented two angle crashes that occurred at the intersection.
Meanwhile, other traffic signals are coming to Zephyrhills.
A new signal is expected to be operating at Eiland and Geiger Road by late November.
A third is planned at Chancey and Coats roads. That signal will be operating in late October.
Oakley noted each of those signals are necessities to keep up with increasing traffic patterns: “The reason for these (roads) being so busy is our growth in our county. I mean, that’s great growth we’re having, and it’s a managed growth, so this is part of that management — managing traffic because it’s gotten bigger and bigger with the schools and the communities here.”
Published August 29, 2018