NEW PORT RICHEY — County officials brought residents up to speed about the impact from a Ridge Road widening project.
A Pepper Contracting bulldozer was parked alongside the road as preliminary work has started to relocate utilities. By April 2015, two-lane Ridge will become four lanes along the nearly three-mile stretch from Broad Street to Moon Lake Road.
The $22 million project includes the Pasco-Hernando Community College West Campus entrance.
A large crowd filled the hall at Faith Baptist Church of New Port Richey during the Thursday evening public workshop and peppered officials with questions.
“I travel this road frequently,” Commissioner Henry Wilson said. “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.”
Among questions, residents asked why Tanglewood Drive would not gain a 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 the year, crews will concentrate on utility relocations, Kurt Keith, project manager with Tampa-based Pepper Contracting said. By mid-January, construction work to add lanes will begin in earnest, he said.
“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 many projects early, but crews might need until the April 2015 deadline in this instance, Keith said. “It’s a pretty long project.”
In 2010, the county hired Pepper Contracting to finish the stalled Decubellis Road extension after the project’s original contractor filed for bankruptcy.
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.