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Business 2005

Road work seeks to take sting out of growth

Several road improvements in play this year could make a difference for motorists, especially in Spring Hill.

By ABHI RAGHUNATHAN
Published February 13, 2005


As new residents pour into Hernando County by the carload, officials are scrambling to make the improvements necessary to keep roads free of traffic jams and intersections free of wrecks.

Several key road improvements under way this year could make drives smoother, especially for those living in fast-growing Spring Hill.

For starters, there is the widening of the east end of Northcliffe Boulevard to four lanes, a project set to begin this year. Then there's the $4-million effort to improve the intersection of Spring Hill Drive and Mariner Boulevard, especially the left-turn lanes, another project that is slated to get started this year.

Also, consider the effort to add lanes to Anderson Snow Road from Spring Hill Drive to Elgin Boulevard.

"With just those projects, you're talking about major improvements" in one area, county transportation planning coordinator Dennis Dix said.

Some work will also be done on another major effort that involves two county governments and the state - the widening of County Line Road to four lanes, with enough additional right of way for two more. Dix said the entire project, which is not expected to be completed for years, would cost $90-million just to obtain the right of way.

According to Dix, 40 percent of the cost will come from Pasco County and 60 percent from Hernando for the improvements needed from U.S. 19 to the Suncoast Parkway. For the work done east of the parkway, where the road will be rerouted to the north, Hernando will pick up 100 percent of the tab.

The project involves federal gas tax money being funneled to Hernando County through the state Department of Transportation.

Of course, there are more road improvements in the county. Construction has just gotten under way on the widening of U.S. 41 from two to four lanes from just north of Spring Hill Drive to Hviezdoslav Street in Masaryktown.

The widening of U.S. 41 is expected to ease the county's north-south traffic flow, according to Dix. And the improvements at the Spring Hill Drive-Mariner Boulevard intersection, which has seen a high number of wrecks, would ease the burden on the roads there as well as drivers, Dix said.

Most of the road improvements begun this year will take about 18 months to finish, according to Dix. Still, there can be delays.

Smith & Co. of Stuart, the contractor for the recent widenings of the State Road 50 truck bypass and U.S. 41 in Brooksville, finished the job about a year late in 2003. The contractor and the state are still fighting over the job and payments in court.

Even as the county begins work on several road construction projects this year, officials are planning for the additional improvements that will be needed in future years, according to the regional transportation improvement program. They are already eyeing the widening of Deltona Boulevard, though construction may not begin for several years.

Dix also noted the larger effort to widen Interstate 75 to six lanes throughout the state.

Dix said surveyors along the county's roads will continue be a common sight.

[Last modified February 8, 2005, 16:44:07]


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