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Task force gets earful on U.S. 19 problems

About two dozen people showed up and spoke up Thursday. Some said a Band-Aid fix just won't do.

By SAUNDRA AMRHEIN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 11, 2003

PORT RICHEY -- More sidewalks, fewer idiot drivers.

Those were some of the wishes of about two dozen members of the public who showed up Thursday evening for the first public hearing held by the U.S. 19 Task Force.

The task force members, numbering almost as many as their audience, took note of the comments and feedback during the hearing in the cafeteria of Chasco Middle School.

The task force, formed by county transportation planners and made up of county, city and state officials, will factor comments into a draft report on ways to fix the dangerous highway. The report will be presented to the public by summer's end before being given to county transportation planners.

Some of the audience members applauded the task force efforts. Some said small-scale plans won't be enough.

"We're going to need a coastal expressway," said Terrence Rowe of Port Richey. "A highway is not meant to handle this kind of traffic we have here. . . . We really need to start looking at implementing a plan for a coastal expressway down the western coast of Florida."

Modeled after a task force in Pinellas, the Pasco group will help tackle problems along the entire length of the highway in the county.

A common complaint among several who spoke Thursday centered on Wal-Mart, which is planning supercenters in both Holiday and Hudson.

Lou Mirando of Beacon Woods warned that all the county's plans to improve safety on U.S. 19 might become irrelevant when Wal-Mart moves in.

"Once that happens, I think it becomes a traffic planner's nightmare," Mirando said.

He asked that the county and state be prepared with their own traffic studies to counter Wal-Mart's experts.

Donald Boeing of Briar Patch in New Port Richey asked that Wal-Mart be made to build sidewalks along its sites on U.S. 19.

Van Adams of New Port Richey asked for more law enforcement against "idiot drivers."

The task force will break into smaller subcommittee meetings before completing its report.

Ann Hildebrand, the task force chair and county commissioner, thanked the public, stressing that U.S. 19 touches "each and every one of our lives."

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