Plans for sprucing up U.S. 19 are back on

Posted at 2:20 AM, Sep 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-10 02:20:51-04

At Michael Schwab’s Coastal Rental Center, you can rent it all, from machinery to bounce houses.

And his location on U.S. 19, just south of Main Street in New Port Richey, seems to be the perfect spot.

“We started out in Holiday on Grand Boulevard, and moving to 19 tripled our business the second year we opened,” Schwab said.

But U.S. 19 has long had a bad reputation as a dangerous road, littered with blight.

That’s why community leaders are trying to clean things up.

They are creating a Road Maintenance Organization, or RMO, and asking local business owners to contribute to adding palm trees and landscaping to medians from county line to county line.

“This is really going to do some nice things. Looking at pictures of different places like Largo and Ft. Myers, I think it worked great. It looks really nice,” Schwab said.

State grants will help pay for a big chunk of the work, which will also include signs welcoming drivers to Pasco County.

But business owners who join up will play about $700 a year to sponsor a median.

And the RMO will be in charge of maintenance.

The hope is once the medians are spruced up, businesses will follow the lead.

“They start to see the surroundings are improving, they figure they better do it to and hopefully spur on redevelopment. If we can get this going we can make it snowball,” said RMO organizer and local realtor Greg Armstrong.

The plan also includes renaming Pasco’s part of U.S. 19 to something more inviting like Gulf Coast Highway.

There are also plans to add high speed internet access to the area.

“If we can get this high speed internet access, we can get something other than just shopping. We can get jobs on 19,” Armstrong said.

Organizers said studies show having landscaped medians actually slows down traffic five miles an hour, which they say could make U.S. 19 safer.

The project is slated to begin in the spring.