This Environmental Assessment was prepared for the improvements to 27 miles of U.S. Route 19 (S.R. 55) in portions of Pasco and Hernando County. The improvements would provide for the upgrading of the existing roadway from four lanes divided to six lanes divided with associated intersection improvements.
The limits of the study extend from the Pinellas/Pasco County line north to S.R. 50 in Hernando County. After review of the traffic projections, it was determined that the most immediate need for improvement occurs between the Pinellas/Pasco County line and Fivay Road in Pasco County. As such, planned Stage I improvements would be limited to this segment of roadway. Since the need to improve U.S. 19 north from Fivay Road to State Road 50 (Stage II improvements) would likely occur in the future, the environmental impacts on this segment of the highway are also fully discussed in this report.
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), in consultation with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), examined the proposed U.S. 19 highway improvements with respect to the provisions of U.S. Department of Transportation Order 5610.1C and the Council on Environmental Quality regulations (40 CFR 1500-1508) and has determined that this project will constitute a major action which will not have a significant effect on the quality of the human-environment.
Study Purpose and Need
The existing U.S. 19 roadway, which provides four lanes with uncontrolled access, contains numerous traffic signalization points and experiences relatively high volumes of traffic on crossroads, cannot presently maintain acceptable levels of service. Traffic projections indicate a demand as high as 80,000 vehicles a day can be expected by 1990 and for some segments in excess of 100,000 vehicles, by the year 2000.
In addition, an investigation of reported accidents indicates that over the six-year period between 1972 and 1977, Pasco County’s 19.7 miles of U.S. 19 had 5,227 reported accidents, resulting in a direct economic loss of approximately $28 million. The Hernando County study segment of U.S. 19 (7.3 miles) had 225 report accidents with a direct economic loss of approximately $2.5 million during the same 1972-1977 period.
The existing alignment was recommended for the facility and is on Exhibit VII-1. This alignment was selected for the following reasons.
- Selection of any new parallel alignment, or significant longitudinal shift in the existing alignment would result in significant and large-scale impacts on residential dwellings, business activities, community cohesion, economic viability of the project, wetlands and floodplain involvement and overall project feasibility.
The areas designated for widening construction are from the Pinellas-Pasco County line north to S.R. 50 in Hernando County. Within these areas, U.S. 19 will be a six-lane, divided general land service highway. Between Sunset Boulevard and Stone Road the six-laning will be accomplished using a closed drainage system with provisions for sidewalks and curb and gutter sections. For the areas between the Pinellas County line and Sunset Boulevard, and from Stone Road north to S.R. 50 an open drainage system will be provided. There will be no provision of sidewalks, bikepaths or closed drainage in these open drainage highway segments.
The existing U.S. 19 median is uniformly 40 feet wide throughout the corridor, therefore, the reduction by a total of 12 feet (six feet from each side) within the open drainage segments will result in a reduced 28-foot median. This 28-foot median is necessary to provide the future capability for dual left-turn lanes from U.S. 19 at existing and future major intersection locations. If the widening occurred in the outer edge of pavement it could unnecessarily increase long-range right-of-way requirements.