NEW PORT RICHEY — City officials are joining businesses and residents to pressure state officials to overturn the redesign of a U.S. 19 median that blocks left turns onto Sunset Road.
Florida Department of Transportation held four public hearings and even hand delivered many notices about median changes to affected property owners the past few years, FDOT District 7 spokeswoman Kris Carson said.
However, some business owners say FDOT did not give proper notice about the median change on southbound U.S. 19 that closes left-turn access to busy Sunset Road, a few blocks north of Main Street.
Carson conceded Friday that one of several flyers omitted any mention of Sunset Road as one of the affected intersections.
Protesters hope to form a large group to air their complaints at the May 28 meeting of the FDOT access management review committee at the District 7 office in Tampa, 11201 N. McKinley Drive.
“We had a real safety issue out there” with medians spaced too closely together, Carson said.
“It’s frustrating,” Carson remarked about opposition developing after construction has started on the $28 million projects for median changes on U.S. 19.
Mayor Rob Marlowe weighed in in response to assertions in a Thursday email from Carson.
“With all due respect, you don’t live in the neighborhood,” Marlowe wrote. “I do. This mistake needs to be fixed while you still have construction people on-site.
Marlowe added: “Did you contact any of the three churches, the ambulance company, the banquet hall or the Masonic lodge about how their access was going to be compromised? Did you talk to ANY of the residents along Avery, Palmetto, Jasmin, or River Road who are going to have their neighborhoods disrupted by this really bad decision?”
In response, Carson said, “We don’t ordinarily go down side streets” to hand deliver notices.
Councilman Bill Phillips called the median change as one of the worst decisions he has seen in comments during an April 29 city council work session. Executives at J.D. Parker and Sons trash haulers told him of their concerns about access for their garbage trucks.
“This is not new to the city,” Carson said about the design of median changes. At every phase of the design process, the plans were also sent to the city for review, she maintained.
New Port Richey Public Works Director Robert Rivera, however, said on April 29 that FDOT didn’t listen to objections of city officials during the design phase.
“Along this section of U.S. 19,” Carson elaborated in her Thursday email, “we studied each of the existing median openings, reviewing the traffic volumes, crash history and the spacing between median openings.
“It appears the existing full median opening at Sunset Road was closed in order to comply with the spacing required between median openings,” Carson continued. “The more median openings along a section of roadway, the more locations people have to make mistakes (at) more conflict points, which ultimately results in more crashes.
“Letters were sent to each property owner advising them of changes to medians, driveway changes, and potential encroachments” into public rights of way, Carson concluded.
For information, telephone the FDOT District 7 access management office at (813) 975-6273.