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Business owners complain about U.S. 19 median changes

Published:   |   Updated: May 8, 2014 at 04:52 PM

Somebody made a wrong turn in designing median changes at U.S. 19 and Sunset Road, many New Port Richey city officials and business owners believe.

They gathered on the corner Wednesday morning to express their dismay to officials from the Florida Department of Transportation District 7 office, in Tampa.

The median redesign shuts off any left turns from southbound U.S. 19 onto busy Sunset Road, Mayor Rob Marlowe complained.

FDOT rescheduled the meeting of an access review committee to May 14 from May 28 to hear the complaints and consider any changes.

It doesn’t make any sense, Marlowe complained, that new median turn lanes would give access to Beau Lane with a handful of homes for the most part and to a motel parking lot. He suggested shifting those turn lanes to Sunset Road and to Richey Plaza shopping center south of Avery Road.

“It’s not a screw-up,” Jim V. Moulton Jr., director of transportation operations for Florida Department of Transportation District 7 office, responded.

Conditions can change during the long time, sometime years, between the design of the project and actual construction, Moulton said. Engineers carefully studied traffic volumes and safety concerns from medians spaced too closely together.

However, the Sunset Road median changes were omitted by accident from lists on two notices distributed to owners, FDOT has said. Nonetheless, the agency set up four public meetings about the median project. It’s being done at the same time as continuous right-turn lanes.

Moulton acknowledged timing is “imperative” to hear concerns of local leaders in case FDOT needs to redirect the contractor.

The May 14 meeting will focus on U.S. 19 at Bridge Road at 8 a.m., the Sunset Road median 9-11 a.m. and median openings between Palmetto and Avery roads from 11 a.m. until noon. All sessions will be at the FDOT office at 11201 N. McKinley Drive, Tampa.

Business owners asked for the location of the meeting to be changed to New Port Richey to no avail.

Dave Parker of J.D. Parker and Sons trash haulers said the median changes might force garbage trucks to detour onto residential streets.

Gary Tinker of Myers Auto Supply said his business, at 6738 U.S. 19, has been here since the 1960s before U.S. 19 became six lanes. He’s surprised the current configuration of U.S. 19 hasn’t caused more rear-end collisions when a driver tries to steer into a parking lot.

Thomas Hauslein of JMT Auto said the median redesign blocks many customers from getting to his repair shop, at 6732 U.S. 19.

John Hatzistefanou of Niko’s Place restaurant complains that changes virtually force his patrons on southbound U.S. 19 to go to Main Street, make a U-turn and double back on northbound U.S. 19 to get to his eatery, at 6818 U.S. 19.

Other city representatives at the protest included Public Works Director Robert Rivera and former Mayor Peter Altman, now the finance director.

Manny Lajmiri, Pasco County Metropolitan Planning Organization senior planner, said the median topic could be brought up at Thursday’s MPO meeting.