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Construction switches into high gear for Ridge Road widening

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Published:   |   Updated: December 26, 2013 at 10:12 AM

NEW PORT RICHEY — Construction crews have put the pedal to the metal on the project to widen Ridge Road to four lanes east of Little Road.

To update people about the $22 million endeavor, Pasco County officials have scheduled a second public workshop on Thursday, Jan. 9. The event will take place 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Faith Baptist Church of New Port Richey, 9230 Ridge Road.

A crowd of about 150 people jammed into the hall for the first public hearing in August just as the project was getting started.

Now that the dirt has begun to fly from bulldozers and other heavy equipment, contractor Pepper Contracting Services and county staff wanted to give residents and commuters an update about the project and its schedule.

Residents, property owners, business owners and interested citizens can ask as many questions as they like, officials said. People also can view illustrations and maps of the project.

For information, call Deborah Bolduc, Pasco’s program administrator for engineering services, at (727) 847-8140.

By April 2015, two-lane Ridge will become four lanes along the nearly three-mile stretch from Broad Street to Moon Lake Road-DeCubellis Road. The route includes the Pasco-Hernando Community College West Campus entrance.

“I travel this road frequently,” Commissioner Henry Wilson said at the August workshop. “I used to go to PHCC here. So I know how busy this road is. Safety should be and will be our No. 1 priority. You guys have been here longer than a lot of us. You live here. You deal with it day in and day out.”

In August, residents had bombarded county officials with questions on a number of topics, such as no Tanglewood Drive traffic signal, drainage improvements to protect Bass Lake area from flooding, sidewalks, a privacy wall along much of Hidden Lake Estates and a bus stop for riders on Pasco County Public Transportation buses.

County leaders pledged to seek answers and incorporate as many suggestions as possible.

Besides four lanes, the section of Ridge Road will gain medians, directional turn lanes and sidewalks, according to James Widman, county engineer and director of engineering services.

A 5-foot sidewalk will parallel Ridge on the north side, while plans call for an 8-foot multi-use trail on the south side.

During the rest of 2013, crews will concentrate on utility relocations, Kurt Keith, project manager with Tampa-based Pepper Contracting had said previously. By mid-January, construction work to add lanes will begin in earnest.

“There is a lot of traffic here,” Keith said about the existing, two-lane Ridge Road section. The construction speed limit will drop to 35 mph. Construction workers will be alongside the edge of the road.

He showed a sign depicting two children in construction crew garb, with the tagline, “Please Slow Down, Mommy and Daddy work here.”

“We will never stop traffic from going into your business,” Keith assured owners of several firms along Ridge Road. “We’ll do whatever we have to do to make sure your business stays open” to traffic.

Pepper Contracting has a reputation for finishing projects early, but it might need until the April 2015 deadline in this instance, Keith said. “It’s a pretty long project.”

The county will pay half of the $22 million price tag for widening Ridge Road, Wilson said. The rest of the money came from a grant from the Florida Department of Transportation.

corth@suncoastnews.com

(727) 815-1068

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