As Pasco County and the municipalities within the county’s borders continue to grow, Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey thinks the Pasco Metropolitan Planning Organization should have a greater voice in planning future roads to ensure safety, while promoting connectivity.
The issue came up repeatedly during the Pasco MPO’s Feb. 11 meeting.
“I’m wondering if it’s the role of the MPO to give some policy direction when we work on our road network,” Starkey asked her colleagues.
She’d like the MPO board to be able to weigh in before road projects are done — to keep safety in mind for pedestrians, cyclists and golf cart users.
Otherwise, she said, the county and local jurisdictions could end up with scenarios they don’t want and have to spend more money later to make changes.
The issue of paying more attention to connectivity came up during discussion of an item to amend the transportation improvement plan to include two wildlife culverts under State Road 52.
The culverts will connect the Connor Preserve on the southern side of State Road 52 to the northern side of State Road 52, in the area of Parker Lake.
Once those culverts are added, right of way acquisition will begin this year, according to the agenda item.
Starkey asked if there’s a way to look at these planned wildlife crossings to make them large enough to allow cyclists and pedestrians to pass through them.
She suggested making the crossings 8 feet deep, to make room for people to go back and forth.
Doing that would be much cheaper than putting an overpass over State Road 52, added Starkey, an avid proponent for using trails to create connectivity within and between communities.
She noted that the extension of State Road 56, between Meadow Pointe Boulevard and U.S. 301, would have benefited from forward-thinking regarding pedestrians and cyclists.
“Now, we’re going to have a problem, of how to get people safely from the south side of Two Rivers to the north side of Two Rivers,” Starkey said. “If we had just gone up a little in elevation, it would have been a lot cheaper than whatever the solution is going to be.”
Commissioner Jack Mariano agreed with Starkey’s observation. He told her: “You brought up a great point way back at State Road 52 and (Interstate) 75, about doing something for cyclists to be able to go under that bridge, as well, that did get accomplished. It delayed the project a little bit, but I think it was well worth it.”
Starkey said: “I think it was a $1 million redo. “That is much cheaper than a $10 million, $12 million flyover for cyclists — or whatever other solution there could have been.”
Mariano said he would like the state roads department to take another look at the wildlife crossings proposed for the State Road 52 project.
“Instead of being tight underneath, maybe it should be a big box culvert that will actually allow a couple of bicyclists width-wise to go through. I think it’s something we should explore. It’s a lot cheaper to do it now, than it would be later,” Mariano said.
Justin Hall, with the Florida Department of Transportation, said the department will consider the request. “I can circle back with the project manager and we can take a look at that.”
The issue of advance planning to improve safety and mobility also came up during discussion of two work task orders, approved by the board after discussion.
In one work task, Aecom will prepare Active Transportation Plan procedures and outline a public engagement process.
The consultant will “assist with the actual plan development; the recommended schedule, preparing draft templates for how the plan should be put together and also prepare the next steps. It’s essentially the strategic approach for how to put together the Active Transportation Plan, which is something the county has not had in more recent times,” said Nectarios Pittos, acting executive director for the Pasco MPO.
That work task order was approved for $49,917.25.
The second work task order is being handled by Tindale Oliver & Associates.
“This will include available data sources, data assembly, demographics, data gap, data collection, GIS mapping, crash data analysis, technical memo development, review of comprehensive plan and right of way preservation with standards,” Pittos said.
“This is essentially the technical understanding of what information we have, ahead of the plan formation,” he said. That work task order was approved for $48,666.14.
By having the two work task orders done at the same time, the MPO hopes to finish phase one of the project by the end of June, so it can begin plan development starting in August, Pittos said.
Starkey asked if this planning would be an appropriate place to consider policies that the MPO would like to be considered during future road planning.
“Certainly when they’re developing the plan, there will be recommendations and policies established in that plan. Our understanding is that this plan is going to take a lot of cue from the long-range transportation plan, so there will be a definite dove-tailing of the two documents.
“So, you’ll be able to make recommendations and essentially set policy as well, in these documents.
“The MPO can have its own policy and work with the various jurisdictions that are working with the MPO, to follow that policy,” Pittos said.
Published March 03, 2021