A U.S. 19 median will take a turn for the worse for drivers if changes are made, Port Richey city officials believe.
State transportation officials, however, say safety concerns trump convenience or commerce.
City council members are asking for the full median to remain open at U.S. 19 and Cedar Lane, the street on the west side of the highway immediately south of the Pithlachascotee River bridge.
A reconstruction project now in progress would shut off left turns from Cedar onto northbound U.S. 19, plans from the Florida Department of Transportation show. The rebuilt median is part of the second phase of continuous right-turn lanes on U.S. 19, from Marine Parkway to S.R. 52.
“The median was recommended for closing based on being the seventh highest crash incident history for median openings on U.S. 19” between the Pinellas-Pasco county line and the river, FDOT District 7 spokeswoman Kris Carson wrote in an email reply to inquiries.
Council members approved the resolution March 26 and will send a copy to the FDOT District 7 office, in Tampa.
In January, the council expressed “serious concerns to the alteration of the intersection,” according to the March 26 city memo. Project Manager Sandra Gonzalez of the Tampa FDOT office spoke at the Jan. 22 city council meeting.
On Feb. 27, the city received a letter in which Gonzalez confirmed the FDOT would carry out the redesign of the median that would block left turns from the west side of U.S. 19.
The city petition “contradicts the findings from the access management study,” Carson responded. “The DOT must weigh public safety over convenience. Our decision for closing the median opening is justified based on the crash records for the intersection and the lack of conformance with current design standards.”
State highway officials have already converted other U.S. 19 medians into directional turn lanes. Pasco County did the same in 2012 for the median on Ridge Road at Sterling Lane.
As far back as an August 2008 workshop about U.S. 19, FDOT engineers said they wanted to close off open crossover medians.
The changes at the Cedar Lane median would force drivers on Cedar Lane to turn south to the next median and then perform a U-turn to get onto northbound U.S. 19.
City officials believe the lack of full access would become a hardship for residents and businesses. Mayor Eloise Taylor asked staff to prepare the resolution opposing the FDOT plan.
The city resolution states the median changes “would effectively eliminate northbound turning movements of vehicles accessing U.S. Highway 19 from the west.”
City officials fear the lack of left-turn access at Cedar would reroute traffic onto “other neighborhood streets not designed to accommodate the increased traffic load.”