Traffic ‘relief’ coming to Pasco

As Pasco County’s population booms, traffic relief is on the way.

That’s according to Pasco County Commission Chairman Mike Moore, the featured speaker at The Greater Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce monthly breakfast on May 4.

The commissioner provided updates to several county road projects, including: extension of State Road 56; widening of State Road 54; and, intersection improvements along Eiland Boulevard.
Those projects are crucial, Moore said, as growth continues.

Pasco County Commission Chairman Mike Moore was the featured speaker at The Greater Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce monthly breakfast on May 4. He discussed a wide range of topics, including roads, code enforcement and economic development.
(Kevin Weiss)

The county recently crossed the 500,000-population threshold, and stands at roughly 505,000.

The figure is estimated to grow to 750,000 people by 2030, and over 1 million by 2040.

“We’re catching up (to Hillsborough County). We’re one of the fastest growing areas in the nation,” said Moore.

Specifically, Land O’ Lakes, Wesley Chapel and Zephyrhills are “probably the fastest growing…in the state of Florida.”

Knowing that, Moore said county leaders must be “proactive” and “forward-thinking” on “big-ticket items,” including road improvements.

Among the most ballyhooed is the four-lane extension of State Road 56 from Meadow Pointe Boulevard in Wiregrass Ranch to U.S. 301 in Zephyrhills.

Construction on the 6.7-mile stretch is estimated to be complete sometime in 2019.

“Relief is definitely on the way,” Moore said. “It’s going to open up economic development opportunities in this area. But, at the same time, it’s going to relieve some of that traffic congestion that we see on (State Road) 54 coming into Zephyrhills or (U.S.) 301 coming into Zephyrhills.”

The county also is working with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) on widening the State Road 54 corridor from four lanes to six lanes, up through Morris Bridge Road.

Though he declined to provide a specific timeline, Moore said the right-of-way acquisition process is complete and the project will start “very, very soon.”

Meanwhile, design studies are ongoing for various intersection improvements along Eiland Boulevard in Zephyrhills.

The intersection of Eiland Boulevard and Geiger Road will feature a traffic signal system and a right turn lane for eastbound traffic from Geiger to Eiland. The existing dual turn lane on Geiger Road will be restriped for left turn movements.

A signalization project also is being planned at the intersection of Handcart Road and Eiland Boulevard, along with the intersection of Eiland Boulevard and Silver Oaks Drive.

“Eiland needs to happen — it’s going to happen,” Moore said.

Besides roads, Moore hit on the county’s ongoing code enforcement efforts.

Over a year ago, commissioners approved a plan to increase code enforcement efforts along major corridors to end blight, and clean up vacant commercial properties.

Moore said code enforcement continues to focus on major corridors, including U.S. 19, U.S. 41 and U.S. 301.

Stings are also planned outside the Zephyrhills city limits, within the next month.

Targeting dilapidated buildings, violators are fined $500 per day for blight like broken windows or damaged doors.

“It’s not fair for the legitimate business owners that live in the neighborhoods behind these buildings,” Moore said. “We know what it does — it brings property values down, it hurts economic development. Additionally, it’s just unsightly.”

Moore noted the blight ordinance “has done wonders for a lot of areas” in the county, since its implementation.

“We’re trying to clean up the area, and obviously increase property values and beautify the area,” he said.

Lastly, Moore addressed various economic development initiatives within the county.

Among the targets: a 440-acre site adjacent to the Zephyrhills Municipal Airport and next to the CSX rail line.

The industrial land is currently undergoing a site certification process, with a boost from Duke Energy through the Duke Energy Site Readiness Program.

The site — once certified — could be a draw for a domestic or international corporation that specializes in manufacturing or distribution.

Within the next decade, Moore said upward of 2,000 to 3,000 jobs could be brought to that area alone, further supplementing the county’s tax base.

“If we can get that site certified, some great things will happen in this area,” Moore said.

Published May 10, 2017

Despite holiday, gas prices continue to fall

The demand for gasoline was the biggest in years for travelers trying to take the road to their Christmas destinations. Yet, where the classic system of supply and demand would’ve typically meant higher gas prices — they were, instead, lower.

In fact, motorists saw the cheapest gasoline for Christmas since 2008, where Florida drivers saw an average price of $2.43. That broke lows set in 2009, AAA said, when gas was $2.63 in the state.

“Low gas prices are helping consumers save more than $21 for a tank of gasoline compared to the highs earlier this year, and that has a positive effect on holiday shopping and travel,” AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins said, in a release. That high was $3.70.

“The new year will bring new expectations for even cheaper gasoline. Prices could drop another 3 to 6 cents by New Year’s Day.”

The national average dropped for a 94th consecutive day Sunday, the longest streak on record. The previous record of 86 days of drops came during the height of the Great Recession. Since that streak began, gas has fallen 92 cents in Florida.

“The world’s oil supply continues to outpace demand keeping downward pressure on oil and gas prices,” Jenkins said. “Speculators believe this trend will continue next year, so cheap gasoline should stick around for a while.”

Crude prices settled at $54.73 at the close of trading on Friday, down $1.79 from the previous week. The average price for a barrel of oil is expected to be $63 this coming year, according to the Energy Information Administration, down $12 over the last three months of 2014.

Florida is down 8 cents from a week ago, and 39 cents from a month ago. It’s off by 98 cents from a year ago.

Cheapest prices locally, according to GasBuddy, include:

• $2.10 at the Citgo at U.S. 41 and Crenshaw Lake Road in Lutz
• $2.13 at Sam’s Club on State Road 56 in Wesley Chapel
• $2.21 at both the D&D station at U.S. 98 and U.S. 301, and Clark at U.S. 301 near Long Avenue in Dade City
• $2.27 at the RaceTrac on State Road 52 near Silver Palm Boulevard in Land O’ Lakes
• $2.29 at the Marathon on Eiland Boulevard and Geiger Road in Zephyrhills

Merry Christmas, Florida: $2 gas is coming

Georgia and Tennessee have gas stations where prices have fallen below $2 a gallon. And it looks like Florida might not be far behind.

Stations in the Jacksonville area reported prices of $2.10 over the weekend, according to AAA. And if prices keep falling at the current rate of 2 cents a day, that area will be at $2 a gallon by the end of the week.

“Gasoline prices are plunging with little sign of slowing down,” AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins said, in a release. “Oil prices dropped for the fourth consecutive week because of increased oil production and low demand, and that’s keeping downward pressure on the price of gasoline. It is unclear exactly how low prices will go, but gasoline will keep getting cheaper as long as oil does.”

More than 89 million Americans are taking to the road this week, and when they do it, they will find the cheapest gasoline since May 2009, and the lowest Christmas prices since 2008, Jenkins said. On average, Americans are saving $13 for a tank of gas compared to this time last year, and if prices were to remain at these levels, households would save $550 next year, according to the Energy Information Administration.

“Plunging pump prices have boosted disposable income by more than 3.5 percent, which encourages Americans to travel,” Jenkins said. “AAA expects the highest number of travelers during the year-end holidays on record, which dates back to 2001.”

Florida prices were at $2.48 per gallon on average, down 12 cents from last week, and 35 cents from a month ago. Gas was 88 cents more expensive a year ago.

Although nowhere local has gas as close to $2 as Jacksonville does, many service stations are well below the state average.

In Land O’ Lakes, both the RaceTrac and the Hess station on the State Road 52 area reported prices of $2.35, according to GasBuddy, while the Sunoco on Land O’ Lakes Boulevard near Causeway Boulevard, reported the highest prices at $2.53.

In Wesley Chapel, Sam’s Club reported the lowest prices in the entire area at $2.24 on State Road 56. Four other stations were at $2.39, but well above the reported number from the high-volume retail store.

Lutz had gas prices ranging from $2.37 at Metro Gas on State Road 54 near Foggy Ridge Parkway, to $2.49 at three stations, including two near Van Dyke Road.

The cheapest gas in Zephyrhills is at the Marathon station on Eland Boulevard and Geiger Road with a reported price of $2.34. In Dade City, it was the Clark station at the lowest, with $2.33 per gallon on U.S. 301 near Long Avenue. The Chevron station on Fort King Road and Clinton Avenue was the most expensive, according to the website, at $2.45.

Thanksgiving traveling like it’s 2009

It’s just five years ago, but 2009 is not too hard to remember. The Black Eyed Peas had a hit in “Boom Boom Pow.” At movie theaters, “Avatar” was breaking every record imaginable. And at the gas pump, drivers were paying less than $2.70 at the pump.

Hit songs and blockbuster movies from five years ago will likely stay there, but cheap gas? It’s back, as the national average for a galling of regular unleaded gas was $2.82 heading into the busy Thanksgiving week.

“Travelers are thankful to have more money  in their pockets due to falling gas prices,” said AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins, in a release. “The good news is gas should continue falling through the rest of the year. Cheaper gasoline has helped boost disposable income and consumer spending, which encourages more people to travel.”

The state average in Florida Sunday matched the national average at $2.82, down 6 cents from a week ago, and off 64 cents a gallon from the $3.46 prices the state saw just over Thanksgiving weekend a year ago. State prices also are down 27 cents from a month ago.

The best prices in Land O’ Lakes over the weekend were found as usual at two stations on Land O’ Lakes Boulevard and State Road 52 — Both the RaceTrac and Hess station there reported $2.65 on Sunday, according to GasBuddy. The most expensive gas, on the other hand, was $2.83 reported at the Sunoco at Land O’ Lakes and Causeway boulevards.

Lutz drivers also found $2.65 gas at the Circle K on Van Dyke and Old Tobacco roads. The most expensive in that area was $2.89 at the Shell station on North Dale Mabry Highway and Van Dyke.

Six different gas stations in Wesley Chapel advertised prices of $2.69 over the weekend, competing for the cheapest gas there, while the most expensive was reported to be $2.79 at the Shell station on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard near State Road 56, as well as the BP station on Willow Oaks Drive and State Road 56.

In Zephyrhills, gas prices ranged from $2.69 at the Marathon on Eiland Boulevard and Geiger Road, as well as the Murphy USA on Gall Boulevard, to $2.76 at the Sunoco on County Road 54 and Wire Road. Dade City’s cheapest gas was $2.63 at both the Clark on U.S. 301 near Long Avenue, and D&D on U.S. 98 and U.S. 301.

 

Like falling fuel prices? Thank shale

Oil production in the United States is at its highest level since the release of the first “Back to the Future” movie in 1985, and a lot of that has to do with the new shale boom.

Crude oil settled at $82.75 on Friday after dropping below $80 for the first time in two years just the day before, as gas prices continue to drop both locally and nationwide.

“Motorists are paying $5 to $15 less to fill their tanks than they were around July 4,” said AAA spokesman Josh Carrasco, in a release. “This is extra money that consumers can use for the holidays, either to put presents under the tree, or dinner on the table.”

Prices in Florida dropped 9 cents in the past week to $3.15. It followed a drop of a dime nationally, creating the lowest average since February 2011. At the statewide level, gas is still not at $3 in Florida, but that’s not true in other southern states, like Tennessee, where gas averaged $2.89 — down 11 cents from the week before.

Gas in Florida is down 14 cents from a month ago, and 18 cents from a year ago.

“Gas prices should continue to fall through the end of the year,” Carrasco said. “$3 a gallon and cheaper should become a common sight for motorists. The state averages of Florida and Georgia could be at or even below the $3 a gallon mark as early as Thanksgiving.”

Gas in Land O’ Lakes was at $3.07 at four different stations on Sunday, according to GasBuddy.com, including Citgo at State Road 52 and U.S. 41, the Hess in the same location, the Marathon station at Land O’ Lakes Boulevard and Ehren Cutoff, and the RaceTrac at State Road 52 and Silver Palm Boulevard.

In Lutz, the best prices were mostly the same with $3.07 at Chevron and the Sunoco both at State Road 54 and Collier Parkway. The most expensive was $3.19 at two Shell stations.

Seven stations in Wesley Chapel are below $3, with five as low as $2.95. That includes two Marathon stations, a Hess, a Mobil and a Shell. The highest prices in that area were really not above $3.09.

Gas was a little more expensive in Zephyrhills with $3.05 at the Marathon on Eiland Boulevard and Geiger Road, as well as Murphy USA at Gall Boulevard near Ginger Avenue. The cheapest in Dade City was reported at Clark on U.S. 301 near Long Avenue, where gas was $2.95. The most expensive there was $3.12 at the Shell located at Cortez Boulevard and U.S. 301.

Refinery problems freeze gas prices

The dream of gas under $3 may have to wait a little longer, at least in Florida.

Refinery outages in both Canada and Texas put a halt to the summer-long decline in gas prices, and even went as far as pushing prices up in some places, like Pensacola.

“Refinery maintenance, especially in the Gulf, is causing the tightening of supplies in some areas,” said AAA spokesman Josh Carrasco, in a release. “As a result of these refinery issues, the downward pressure eon gas prices motorists saw earlier this month has stopped.”

Several companies in the Gulf region — home to more than 40 percent of U.S. refining capacity, announced an unplanned maintenance, AAA said, which reduced gasoline output in this areas. Those outages occurred the same time as other refineries in the region are conducting seasonal maintenance.

Oil prices also are rising again, with West Texas intermediate crude rising $1.13 to $93.54 a barrel on Friday.

“Overall, motorists are still seeing value at the pump,” Carrasco said. “Gas prices are at a seven-month low, and we expect gasoline to continue trending downwards in the coming months.”

Prices in Florida held steady this week at $3.29, but was down 8 cents from a month ago, and 6 cents from a year ago.

The cheapest gas in Land O’ Lakes was $3.16, and found at a few stations in the area, including the Hess on State Road 52 and U.S. 41, as well as the RaceTrac at State Road 52 and Silver Palm Boulevard, and another RaceTrac on Land O’ Lakes Boulevard, near Lake Patience Road, according to GasBuddy. The most expensive gas reported to the site was $3.29 at the Shell station on the corner of State Road 54 and State Road 56.

In Wesley Chapel, prices ranged from $3.12 at Sam’s Club near Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, and $3.29 at a Shell station nearby. Lutz gas was as low as $3.16 at the Chevron and Sunoco at State Road 54 and Collier Parkway, and as high as $3.39 at the Shell on North Dale Mabry Highway and Van Dyke Road.

Gas prices in Zephyrhills climbed a little bit to a low of $3.15 at the Marathon on Eiland Boulevard and Geiger Road, as well as the Mobil on State Road 54 and Allen Road. The most expensive was reported at the Cumberland Farms on Gall Boulevard and State Road 39, where gas was $3.26.

The cheapest gas in Dade City was $3.13 at Clark, on U.S. 301 near Long Avenue. The most expensive there was said to be at Chevron on the corner of Fort King Road and Clinton Avenue, were prices came in at $3.24.

Another steep drop sends gas prices closer to $3

It’s good news for travelers this week as the price of gas fell another 6 cents per gallon this past week, hitting its lowest point since February, and making that elusive sub-$3 mark look even more realistic.

Part of that continued decrease in price could come from what refineries have to do every year: switch from summer blend to winter blend fuel.

“Winter blend gas is cheaper to produce, because it does not require the additives necessary in summer blend,” said AAA spokesman Josh Carrasco, in a release. “Also, here in the U.S., we continue benefiting from historic domestic oil production. Both of these factors continue placing downward pressure on gas prices.”

But the price for a barrel of oil did go up this past week 14 cents, allowing it to close at $92.41. Part of that was caused by oil supply reductions from OPEC. At the same time, Libya shut down its largest oil field due to escalating tensions in the area there, AAA said, while Saudi Arabia announced its largest reduction in oil exports in 18 months.

OPEC, the group said, supplies about 40 percent of the world’s oil.

“Right now, domestic oil supply is outpacing demand,” Carrasco said, “Geopolitical tensions and supply cuts caused oil to increase this week, but looking ahead, it will be challenging for OPEC to cut production to the point that it has significant impact due to high crude production in the U.S.”

The price of gas in Florida was $3.29 a gallon, down 3 cents from last week, and 13 cents from the year before. It’s also a nickel cheaper than what it was a month ago.

Four gas stations in Land O’ Lakes reported gas at the area’s lowest rate of $3.17, according to GasBuddy. That includes a 7-Eleven, RaceTrac, Citgo and Marathon. The most expensive was reported at the Shell station on State Road 54 and State Road 56, where gas was selling for $3.29.

Sam’s Club continues to remain the cheapest in Wesley Chapel at $3.15, while the Shell station at Bruce B. Downs Boulevard near State Road 56 was the highest at $3.29.

In Lutz, gas prices ranged form $3.16 at two Citgo stations, to $3.39 at two Shell stations. Zephyrhills once again offered the cheapest gas in the area, with the Marathon station at Eiland Boulevard and Geiger Road offering gas at $3.13 per gallon, while the Cumberland Farms at State Road 54 and Morris Bridge Road was reported at $3.21.