U.S. 19 stretches may get lights
By RYAN DAVIS, Times Staff Writer
The state says Pasco County can have street lights along U.S. 19. All the county government has to do is say "yes."
If it does, all but about 3.5 miles of the deadly highway's 20-mile stretch in Pasco would be illuminated at night in 31/2 years. Based on state estimates, streetlights reduce nighttime accidents by 20 percent, officials said.
"They need to decide whether they're going to do it or not," said spokeswoman Marian Pscion of the Florida Department of Transportation.
Currently, Pasco's only lighted stretch of U.S. 19 is in New Port Richey. At least one side of the road is lit from near Marine Parkway north to just past Ridge Road.
The state already plans to install street lights on both sides of the thoroughfare for the 4.7 miles from State Road 52 north to Denton Avenue. That will cost the state $2-million and is in its 2003-04 fiscal year work program.
The state has approved lighting for the 3.5 miles from the Pinellas County line north to Charlene Lane, which is just south of New Port Richey. It also has approved lights for the 3.5 miles from Springer Drive, which is just north of Ridge Road, north to State Road 52.
The work would cost the state $3.5-million and would be done in fiscal year 2004-05 -- if the county agrees.
The county would be responsible for helping with the maintainance of the lights. That will cost about $84,000 a year, Pscion said, but the state would fund a majority of it. Starting in 2004-05, the state will pay for 90 percent of the estimated cost to maintain a Florida street light, officials said.
Bipin Parikh, who is assistant county administrator for development services, said he hasn't had any discussions with FDOT about the two stretches most recently approved for lighting.
"If they are saying other stretches are qualified, I will bring that to the (county commissioners) and see if they are interested," he said.
The high number of accidents and pedestrian deaths along U.S. 19 in Pasco prompted last year's state study that determined lighting would be justified, Pscion said.
Between the Pinellas line and Charlene Lane, there was an average of 54 nighttime crashes reported to law enforcement in 1997, 1998 and 1999. Based on the 20 percent reduction rate, the lights would prevent 11 crashes per year, the study says.
Between Springer Drive and State Road 52, there was an average of 65 reported nighttime crashes each year. There, the lights would prevent 13 crashes a year, the study says.
U.S. 19 is the deadliest road in Pasco County. A record 11 pedestrians were killed last year crossing the six-lane highway, most of them at night.
Between 1990 and 2000, 58 pedestrians died along U.S. 19 in Pasco. In that time, more pedestrians died on U.S. 19 than Pasco's other major thoroughfares -- State Roads 52, 54 and U.S. 41, 98 and 301 -- combined.
The study found U.S. 19 lighting would not be justified from Denton Avenue north to the Hernando County line, Pscion said. Only a small percentage of the accidents occurred on that stretch of road.
-- Ryan Davis is the police reporter in Pasco County. He can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6245, or toll-free at 800-333-7505, ext. 6245. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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