Years of complaints from business owners about arteriosclerosis plaguing some of Pasco County's roads finally might help improve highway health this year.
The most expensive improvement coming down the pike is the opening of new-and-improved State Road 54 for 7 miles from U.S. 41 to Gunn Highway.
Work to widen the highway to four and six lanes should finish by March, the state Department of Transportation said. Then crews will start on the next phase: a $20-million job to widen SR 54 for 4.8 miles from Gunn to Little Road.
That segment, which serves the Trinity community and West Pasco Industrial Park, is among the most congested in Pasco.
Another commute-shortening road project, the $9-million Starkey Boulevard extension, is due for completion in the fall.
Starkey Boulevard starts at DeCubellis Road in the River Ridge community and dead ends at Alico Pass. The 3-mile extension takes Starkey farther south, across the Anclote River and through the Longleaf community, to SR 54.
That's not all. Road builders cups runneth over with projects in Pasco in 2004:
*Old Pasco Road in Wesley Chapel, from Overpass to SR 52, will go from being a dirt path to a paved, two-lane road. Work starts around August/September and finishes a year later.
*A project to widen County Line Road in the Meadow Pointe community, from Timber Trace Drive to Mansfield Boulevard, starts about June and wraps up by Christmas. The road suffers from a notorious bottleneck at Sand Pine Elementary School.
*The Department of Transportation promises to begin designing part of the extension of State Road 56 from Bruce B. Downs to Morris Bridge Road. Actual construction will have to wait.
*Guard rail installation in the median continues this spring on Interstate 75 from the Hillsborough/Pasco line north to near SR 54. The steel barrier is designed to prevent crashes from cars crossing the median.
*Stretches of U.S. 19 will get streetlights: from the Pinellas County line to Charlene Lane and from Springer Drive to near State Road 52.
Other road cures vital to the health of Pasco business are coming in 2005. Chief among them is the widening of State Road 52 from two to six lanes in the increasingly traveled section from the Suncoast Parkway to Moon Lake Road.
Another improvement to keep an eye on: Pasco commissioners have requested $15-million from the state to expand U.S. 19 from six to eight lanes.
And the 8.7-mile Ridge Road extension still needs approval of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers before it can break ground between Moon Lake Road and the Suncoast Parkway.