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Business Outlook 2006

Improvement on way for busiest crossing

The county hopes to reduce accidents by adding left-turn lanes at Spring Hill Drive and Mariner Boulevard.

Published February 19, 2006

The logic is simple. More homes and more people mean Hernando County needs to build more roads.

County planners can see that reality every day. In the afternoon, long lines of cars clog major thoroughfares like State Road 50 and U.S. 41. And some junctions, like at Spring Hill Drive and Mariner Boulevard, remain as busy as ever.

But this year, county planners are hoping that several major road improvement projects could make drives a little easier for residents.

One project that will help traffic flow is a $3.7-million effort to improve the county's busiest intersection: Spring Hill Drive and Mariner Boulevard. Dennis Dix, the county's transportation planning coordinator, said the county had hoped to finish that project last year but couldn't find a qualified bidder willing to take the job.

"There's just so much business around," Dix said. "There's not enough construction and labor to go around."

When improvements to that intersection are completed, drivers will find left-turn lanes at every approach. County planners hope the addition will reduce the number of accidents at the intersection.

Growth has also spurred county officials to begin work on other road projects in the Spring Hill area. The county plans to spend $1.2-million this year to widen Barclay Avenue from two to four lanes between Spring Hill Drive and Elgin Boulevard, according to its capital improvement program.

New homes and businesses are springing up in that part of Spring Hill. Also, the School Board opened the large Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics this year, adding school buses to those roads.

Another major road project this year will also improve traffic near a cluster of schools. The county will begin a $3.6-million effort to expand Sunshine Grove Road from two to four lanes from State Road 50 to Ken Austin Parkway. In the mornings and afternoons, a caravan of school buses ferry several thousand children along Sunshine Grove to three schools: Pine Grove Elementary, West Hernando Middle and Central High.

All three of those schools are crowded. The School Board is planning to build a concrete portable classroom facility at Central this year that could house 700 more students. Plus, Sunshine Grove connects residential neighborhoods near Ken Austin to businesses and stores on and near SR 50.

The county is paying for most local road projects. But the state Department of Transportation will work on expanding U.S. 41 from just north of Spring Hill Drive to Hviezdoslav Street in Masaryktown. Construction will continue for another year.

Late this year, the county will also begin working on a $3.95-million project to add a permanent turn lane to Deltona Boulevard between Spring Hill Drive and Forest Oaks Boulevard. That project probably won't begin until the fall, and will continue for several years.

County planners have already outlined a $390-million plan for road projects until 2025. In February, though, the county could revise its priorities.

The county's long-range plans call for widening SR 50 to six lanes for 1 mile each way near Interstate 75. County planners envision a boom of massive developments like Sunrise springing up in that area by then. And they see the need to make the roads on the east side of the county resemble the road network in Spring Hill.

As Dix put it: "We've got growth coming ... and we've got to pay for it if we're going to keep growing."

[Last modified February 19, 2006, 01:08:19]

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