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Thought all that road work was done? Think again

The county is planning the next phase of projects that would improve intersections, add turn lanes and widen roads.

By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 16, 2003

As several of Hernando County's major road projects from the past few years near completion, a new set is poised to ramp up.

At the top of the agenda this year is an effort to finish widening to four lanes several key county collector roads, which have grown more congested as the population has increased.

The widening of Spring Hill Drive, started in mid-2002, will continue through the year. With that project significantly under way, the county will launch into another that residents have demanded for years -- the expansion of equally busy Mariner Boulevard from Elgin Boulevard to Augustine Road.

"We have construction -- yea! -- on that missing link," county transportation planner Dennis Dix said. "We also still have the project out there for the intersection improvements at Spring Hill Drive and Mariner. That's the busiest intersection we have in the county."

To smooth traffic, the county will add dual left-turn lanes from each direction on Spring Hill and Mariner, and then place concrete dividers between the opposing directions, public works director Charles Mixson said. A hump in the road that hinders visibility on northbound Mariner also will be removed.

The plan also calls for the relocation of sidewalks, curbs, some driveways and underground utilities.

Road construction on Mariner will cost about $2.1-million, and the intersection will cost another $2-million.

The addition of two more lanes on Northcliffe Boulevard from Mariner to Landover Boulevard will further snarl traffic in that congested section of Spring Hill, as the county works to improve the flow of vehicles there.

Heading east, engineers will begin to design and widen Sunshine Grove Road, which has become too narrow for the school hours traffic that it serves.

The road, which runs from State Road 50 past Ken Austin Parkway -- the site of Pine Grove Elementary, West Hernando Middle and Central High schools -- will get a $1.7-million facelift in the next two years, with more work scheduled through 2007.

The first phase will focus on the first mile north of SR 50.

"The critical thing is getting it four-laned to 50 and getting dual turn lanes on 50, where we've got all that stacking when the kids are going to school," Dix said.

In the eastern part of the county, continued widening and improvements to Jasmine Road, including a new segment linking Jasmine to McIntyre Road at Mondon Hill Road, are slated to begin. The $1.2-million endeavor will complete an alternate north-south path from SR 50/U.S. 98 to Croom Road east of Brooksville Cemetery.

Design and right-of-way acquisition will continue for the widening of Spring Lake Highway from Olympia Road to the Pasco County line, but no construction is planned for 2003.

Much of the heavy state road work in the county is over, Department of Transportation spokeswoman Marion Scorza said.

"We're finishing up our State Road 50 program," Scorza said. "We've got a lot of Hernando County done."

To round out the SR 50 work, the state has scheduled adding lanes from Mariner to the Suncoast Parkway in 2004-05, at a cost of about $900,000.

For the most part, though, the work has gotten to a point where the state is looking at computerized traffic signals and repaving as immediate initiatives.

"U.S. 41 is about the only big thing left," Scorza said.

And drivers will get a yearlong breather from the near constant construction on that highway for the past 31/2 years. Bidding on the next phase is set for June 2004, with construction to begin in fall 2004.

The $13.7-million project calls for the widening of U.S. 41 from two to four lanes from the Southwest Florida Water Management District headquarters entrance, just south of Spring Hill Drive, to Hviezdoslav Street in Masaryktown.

The department has no plans to continue the project into Pasco County at this time, Scorza said.

Work on a portion of County Line Road, once forecast for about 15 years from now, also will start this year, Dix said. Design work is to begin in the spring, he said, with right-of-way acquisition to occur from 2003-06.

"If we get the additional funds we're anticipating, construction could begin in about five years from U.S. 19 to Cobblestone Road," Dix said.

Scorza said it appears likely that the funding will be in place to widen that stretch of road in the 2007-08 fiscal year.

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