The building boom along State Road 54 in Pasco County has created a traffic nightmare for drivers in Pinellas County, specifically those who live in the bedroom community of East Lake.
Tens of thousands of new homes are going up in developments like Starkey Ranch and Trinity Preserve. That's thousands of new drivers on the roads heading to Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.
"We understand that most of those folks moving into southern Pasco aren't working in Pasco. They're traveling down south to St. Pete, to Clearwater, to Tampa," said Rob Moore, Director of the Council of North County Neighborhoods.
Drivers and people who live along East Lake Road in Palm Harbor are overwhelmed during rush hour, especially when school is in session. There are four schools within a mile of each other.
"It's very congested," says Robert Mitchell of Palm Habor.
Mitchell moved to East Lake before Boot Ranch existed and when East Lake Road was two lanes, one ran northbound, the other ran southbound.
Now the road has four lanes and some say it's still not wide enough.
"In the morning going southbound, it's congested. In the evening from about 3 o'clock ongoing northbound, it's congested again. I think it's time for six lanes," says Mitchell.
Mitchell and other drivers say start construction now, while others say the fix wouldn't last long.
"It'd get some temporary relief for a while, but you'd end up getting longer traffic lights and more cars and it would just be like U.S. 19," argued Patrick McKenney of Palm Harbor.
At a recent meeting to discuss Pinellas County transportation issues, representatives with the county along with the Florida Department of Transportation joined the CNCN and residents.
Moore says the county has made some improvements recently along East Lake Road to help with congestion including extending turns lanes and adding yellow flashing left-turn signals at busy intersections like East Lake Road and Lansbrook Parkway. But long-term plans aren't a focus.
"It was a little disappointing to hear in our forum Monday night that really there's just nothing on the radar screen at the moment to address the traffic issue here," says Moore.
As more and more people who work in Pinellas buy homes in Pasco, there are only two logical ways to travel: U.S. 19 and East Lake Road. Right now, the only focus for future construction plans in on 19. Building a third north/south road between East Lake Road and U.S. 19 or East Lake Road and the Veteran's Expressway (S.R. 589) is impossible.
"This is a unique situation. We're bound by Brooker Creek Preserve on the east and Lake Tarpon on the west and it's a funnel," says Moore.
Moore says traffic on East Lake Road is only going to get worse. The CNCN wants to hear from residents who live and drive in the area. Visit www.cncnpc.org for information on how to submit suggestions, comments, and questions.