Kyle Molder tried a few years back in 2019 to draw attention to the unsafe crosswalks along County Line Rd. in Meadow Pointe Areas I and II, with minimal success.
But, as time went on, the danger only seemed to grow. In 2020, there was a car crash that killed the driver and led to the speed limit being reduced from 40 miles per hour (mph) to 35 mph, but it didn’t stop the speeding. The sounds of revving engines can be heard in the early hours of the morning, say residents who gathered at an Oct. 18 meeting at the Meadow Pointe I Clubhouse.
Another accident, back in September, involved three cars and, while no one died, it was just another example of County Line Rd.’s local reputation as a “drag strip.” Molder, who is running for Seat 2 on the Meadow Point II Community Development District (CDD), filmed his daughter trying to cross at one of the crosswalks, only to be stuck at the median as cars whizzed by and refused to yield.
According to a Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) Statistical Report requested by Molder, there have been 37 (FHP only) accidents in 2022 on County Line Rd. between Bruce B. Downs (BBD) and Mansfield Blvds. through Sept. 9.
With nearly four months to go in 2022 when that report was compiled, the total crash number is already more than in any other year going back to 2016.
Molder organized the Oct. 18 safety meeting, and invited Pasco officials to attend, in order to shine a light on what they deem is a public safety hazard, as well as help deal with the traffic on nearby Mansfield Blvd., which is home to a preschool, three public schools and a college.
“The school zones need to be reinforced,” said Alicia Willis, the Vice-Chair of the Meadow Pointe I CDD (in Seat 3), who helped run the meeting.
Venkat Vattikuti, P.E., PTOE, the traffic operations manager for Pasco County, was more than an hour late to the 90-minute meeting but managed to squeeze a lot of good news in a short period of time to the 35 or so residents who attended.
Vattikuti said there is little the county can do about ending speeding. Even after reducing the speed limit on County Line Rd., a study showed that speeding had actually increased.
“Did we slow them down? No,” Vattikuti said. “We can’t fix the stupids. And we know all those stupids are in our neighborhoods.”
What the county can do, Vattikuti says, is fix the crosswalk issue. Currently, there are 19 crosswalks along County Line Rd. between Bruce B. Downs Blvd. and Mansfield Blvd.
Vattikuti said that is too many. He said the county is recommending consolidating 19 crosswalks into four, each spaced a half-mile apart.
Those crosswalks would have flashing beacons that are activated by pedestrians. According to Vattikuti, studies show that the percentage of drivers yielding at crosswalks goes from 20 percent to 90 percent when there is a flashing light.
Vattikuti said that Pasco County is willing to pay for two of the crosswalks, with the Meadow Point I and II CDDs having to pay for the other two. Once installed, however, the county would maintain all four at no cost to Meadow Pointe.
If Meadow Pointe puts in a request for the enhanced crosswalks, Vattikuti promised they would be installed in early 2023. “That I can guarantee you,” he said.
And, since speed tables are not allowed on County Line Rd. because the roadway exceeds 3,000 daily trips, Pasco is experimenting with raised crosswalks — which would serve nearly the same purpose as a speed table — in New Port Richey. If those prove to be productive, they can be employed on County Line Rd. as well.
Molder said he was pleased with what Vattikuti told the crowd. “I think it will help,” he said. “It’s a good start.”
As for the tangled Mansfield Blvd. school zones, Vattikuti said the county would be installing a 4-way light at Oakwood Preserve, in the hopes that it will break up the congestion. Additional signage already has been installed to help keep the sidewalk free for kids walking and riding to school.
Because the county did away with courtesy busing within two miles of the schools in that area — which include Wiregrass Ranch Elementary, John Long Middle School and Wiregrass Ranch High, foot and bike traffic in that area has doubled, according to those in attendance at the meeting.
“We have to keep it going now,” Willis told the residents. “Keep emailing. Keep calling. Don’t stop.”