It appears that we are about to put the cart before the horse in Pasco County’s attempt to revitalize the U.S. 19 corridor. Pasco County is preparing a vote to outlaw banners, flapping signs and the like up and down US 19.
While that change, in the long run, would undoubtedly enhance the appeal of the corridor, which is looking tired and run down, it would mainly put a last knife in the back of many U.S. 19 businesses that have been hanging on through the horrible recession only to be swallowed up by highway construction.
We seem to be ignoring that the two oldest U.S. 19 road projects in Pasco County are behind — way behind. From the Pinellas-Pasco line to Marine Parkway is 90 to 95 percent done yet little to nothing seems to be happening. Marine Parkway to S.R. 52 was originally set for completion in the spring of this year. That date has come and gone with no end in sight.
As someone with a business on U.S. 19, every day I talk with other owners who are fighting to stay afloat until the work is done. Troubles range from retail with less traffic, and car dealers who fight to keep the dirt off cars to strip centers that seem to be losing tenants with extreme regularity.
Instead of working on ways to cut commerce further, maybe we as business, city, county and state leaders should be asking FDOT to work with us to speed up completion in Pasco County. We should ask for the same help the state has given to Pinellas. FDOT is admittedly stretched thin, but Pinellas has shown us that if we speak together and loudly we can make a difference.
Once the barricades, dirt piles and heavy equipment are gone we should then have a task force of U.S. 19 business owners and government officials come up with the correct limits to improve the corridor. If we are going to fix it we must all participate.
The writer is broker-owner of Coldwell Banker F.I. Grey & Son Residential.