The FDOT has installed a “dynamic message board” on S.R. 54 that will give motorists traffic advisories and display amber and silver alerts. These signs are common on interstates, but this is the first on the Highway 54 corridor. JIM REED/TRIBUNE
NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County and the Florida Department of Transportation are finishing up a $5.7 million traffic management system that will help relieve congestion on some of west Pasco's busiest roadways. The expanded Intelligent Transportation System includes 27 traffic cameras and 66 upgraded traffic signals on State Road 54, Little Road and Ridge Road. All are linked by an underground network of fiber optic cables to instantly recognize and adapt to changing traffic conditions. Two electronic message boards were installed on the eastbound lanes of S.R. 54 and Ridge Road, adding to the four existing signs on U.S. 19. Better street lighting was also installed along S.R. 54. Pasco Traffic Operations Manager Robert Reck said the system should be activated next week.
“Drivers are going to notice a difference immediately,” he said. “They should see better coordination of traffic signals and better traffic flow.” Once the automated system goes live, it will continue to improve with time, Reck said. “It learns as it goes,” he said. “It will take a couple months to fine tune the system, but eventually, it will operate seamlessly.” The most obvious change will be the activation of the electronic message boards on S.R. 54 and Ridge Road. Each has been running a test message for the last week. Transportation officials will activate them remotely to provide real-time traffic alerts and information about severe weather, missing persons, work zones or special events. The message boards were designed to remain mostly idle and be as unobtrusive as possible. But when activated, they become a powerful tool. The electronic message boards are part of a statewide program operated by the Florida Department of Transportation known as SunGuide. The effort, begun in 2004, is part of a 10-year, $110 million push by DOT to manage congestion in the Tampa Bay area. Once only a fixture on interstate highways, the FDOT has begun expanding their use on major state and county roadways. Two signs were installed on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard in New Tampa earlier this year. Pinellas County's Roosevelt Boulevard is also slated to get five new electronic message boards. By 2018, the county's network will include 66th Street, Park Boulevard, Bryan Dairy Road and Starkey Road. Reck said Pasco's ultimate goal is to link the county's network with Sunguide, which would allow motorists to access local traffic conditions by using the FDOT's 511 system. That way, Pasco commuters could get text alerts or access a live video feed on the local roads in addition to interstate highways.