BROOKSVILLE - As population on the east side grows, the county has identified the need to make traffic and roadway improvements surrounding the State Road 50 and Interstate 75 interchange.
The Metropolitan Planning Organization authorized the consulting firm of Tindale-Oliver and Associates Inc. to develop a circulation plan for that key area and will formally release its findings during next Tuesday's meeting.
The 37-page report makes a number of recommendations, including closing the existing median opening on SR 50 at Windmere Road and Bronson Boulevard, just east of I-75, and the relocation of the traffic signal there to a new spot to the east - to Sherman Hills Boulevard.
The original signal was always meant to be temporary and that it would eventually be relocated.
Realignment of where Sherman Hills Boulevard intersects S.R. 50 eastward is the logical location for the signal and right of way to accommodate the realignment has been dedicated to Hernando County, the consultant's report said.
The realignment of Sherman Hills Boulevard also can facilitate the relocation of the traffic signal from Windmere Road and Bronson Boulevard in one step, avoiding additional costs, the report said.
Tindale-Oliver also recommends Hernando County move forward with preliminary design studies to identify right of way improvements at Sherman Hills Boulevard, including stormwater treatment strategies and location of ponds.
To reduce traffic along S.R. 50, the report suggests the county consider two locations to the south that would allow east-west traffic to cross from one side of I-75 to the other. Tindale-Oliver said alternate crossings could lessen traffic along S.R. 50 by some 30 percent.
Already in the long-range plan is the widening of I-75 at that intersection to six lanes.
MPO board members Tuesday will consider incorporating the S.R. 50 and I-75 improvements into the long-range plan.
Steve Diez, the county's transportation planner, said the interchange is scheduled to be widened from four to six lanes by 2035, and work must be done now to get road improvements done.
Two massive residential developments have already been approved for the east side, and that will spill more traffic onto that road, he said.
"The (current) frontage road network is insufficient," Diez said.
The Tindale-Oliver report cost $35,479.
In other transportation news:
Work is expected to wrap up by September on drainage improvements on the part of the Suncoast Parkway that experienced flooding when Tropical Storm Debby came through last June.
Up to three feet of water covered the road and forced the closure of the northernmost leg of the parkway, close to Citrus County.
Work crews will raise the roadway north- and southbound at the U.S. 98 ramps and expand the pond on the west side of the parkway.
Cost is about $1 million.
By mid 2014, the Veterans Expressway will eliminate cash toll collection in favor of all-electronic tolling, according to a Florida's Turnpike Enterprise news release.
After conversion, motorists who choose the Veterans Expressway must have a SunPass prepaid toll account or will be mailed a bill and charged a monthly invoice fee.
Seventy-five percent of the 150,000 motorists who travel the Veteran's Expressway every day already use SunPass to pay tolls.
As part of a $20 million project, the Suncoast Parkway in Hernando County from County Line Road to U.S. 98 will be resurfaced.
When completed, there will be signing and pavement markings, upgrades to the motorist-aid call boxes and installation of high-tension median cable barrier.