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