TRILBY — The Florida Department of Transportation will start construction Monday on a $1.3 million repaving project for U.S. 98 in Trilby.
The 1.3-mile project extends from U.S. 301 north of Dade City and across Trilby Road, and it should make one property owner very happy. State Sen. Wilton Simpson owns more than 150 acres on U.S. 98, and the paving project ends at his property line.
But DOT officials say Simpson received no preferential treatment — just the opposite. Spokeswoman Kris Carson said all of U.S. 98 between U.S. 301 and State Road 50 has been repaved — this is the last segment. The DOT was never contacted by any government official while the project was being designed, she said.
It’s been in the agency’s work program since 2011, well before Simpson was elected to the Senate, and was scheduled for construction in fiscal 2014, which began Oct. 1.
The road was last repaved 15 years ago, and the asphalt is cracking apart. This year, the pavement quality fell below what the department considers acceptable standards.
“I talked to the project manager,” Carson said. “He said these are some of the worst pavement conditions he’s seen.”
Pasco Sheriff’s Cpl. David Hink, who chairs the Lacoochee-Trilby-Trilacoochee Steering Committee (LTT), said the project is desperately needed. “There are sections of that road where it’s coming apart,” he said.
At one point, the project was going to be delayed for a year, but was moved back to its original construction date when funding became available.
The six-month project includes a small amount of drainage work and ditch clearing, but there are no sidewalks or other enhancements. The contractor, APAC Southeast, will require some lane closures during construction.
Richard Riley, an LTT member, said residents are thrilled with the state investment on their road network. DOT contractors have nearly finished repaving U.S. 301 and building a new sidewalk north of Dade City, and the state will install a new traffic signal where U.S. 98 merges with U.S. 301 south of the city.
“I see this as an extension of the work they’re doing on U.S. 301,” Riley said.
Simpson could not be reached, but his aide, Rachel Perrin Rogers, confirmed that he was not involved in the funding or scheduling decisions.
“In his dealings with the (Pasco Economic Development Council) he may have advocated to them, but he never directly asked the DOT to pave the road.”