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Officials say numbers support school site

A study near the site of a possible school indicates traffic there would remain at acceptable levels.

By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 28, 2003


SPRING HILL -- School district officials are hoping an independent traffic analysis will bolster their effort to build a school at Deer Street and Linden Drive in Spring Hill.

The study, submitted to the county planning department Thursday, states that traffic on the neighborhood roads surrounding the proposed 41-acre site would remain at acceptable levels -- despite about 1,817 bus and car trips added daily to the mix.

Turn lanes from Linden Drive onto Deer Street would be necessary for school buses to use the Deer Street entrance, though, according to the analysis prepared by Lincks & Associates Inc. of Tampa. The landowner, Anthony Massie of Tarpon Springs, paid for the report.

Planning commissioners delayed their decision whether to zone the property for a school last month, giving the school district time for the study to be completed.

They had heard several complaints from people living in surrounding subdivisions that the extra traffic would be detrimental to the neighborhood. County planners also recommended against the rezoning, stating that the site was too far from major roadways and a school would create "inappropriate traffic impacts."

The commissioners did not want to act without data, though. So they asked for the analysis.

County planning director Larry Jennings said his staff and county engineers will review the report, to test the assumptions driving the results and the results themselves.

County and school district officials then would meet March 4 to talk about that assessment. The planning staff is slated to issue its revised recommendation on the rezoning by Thursday, and the Planning and Zoning Commission is to consider the issue March 10.

In many ways, the new traffic report simply backs what county engineers said a month ago.

The engineers observed originally that the proposed school shouldn't clog roads and intersections. They said that the intersection of Bedford Road and the school access road would need improvements, and turn lanes from Linden onto Deer Street would be needed.

Lincks & Associates put numbers behind that assessment. Using traffic at Deltona Elementary School as a guide, its report concludes that daily vehicle counts on Deer Street, Bedford Road, Horizon Drive and Stephanie Drive would remain below 1,200, which is considered "acceptable" by industry standards.

Using the same standards, 300 to 600 daily trips is considered "good" and fewer than 300 trips would be "excellent."

"The existing street system can physically provide an acceptable level of service for over 10,000 vehicles per day," according to the report. "However, to maintain a livable street system, a much lower traffic threshold must be considered."

The report does not, however, speak to the concerns raised by county planners, who deemed the site unsuitable for a school.

It will be up to planning commissioners and then county commissioners to decide whether the policy that schools should be placed on major roadways will override an engineering analysis that asserts existing neighborhood roads can handle the expected load.

School Board Chairman John Druzbick said the Deer Street property, which sits amid growing subdivisions, remains a top location for a new school. He noted that the bulk of school traffic comes from 8 to 9 a.m. and from 3 to 4 p.m.

"If they had housing there, they'd be having traffic 24/7, wouldn't they," Druzbick said.

The district is not backing down in its pursuit of the Deer Street property, he said, even if it ends up buying land on Elgin Boulevard from the Diocese of St. Petersburg as well.

"We still want the Elgin property. That's still the No. 1 site, if we can get it," Druzbick said. "The No. 2 site, and we still think it's a good site for a school, is Deer Street."

-- Jeffrey S. Solochek covers education in Hernando County and can be reached at 754-6115. Send e-mail to solochek@sptimes.com .

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