Where the Sidewalk Ends: Rep. Nugent urges BOCC to hasten construction of Quality Drive sidewalk

The Hernando County Board of County Commissioners welcomed U.S. Representative Richard Nugent to their regular meeting on February 23, 2016. Congressman Nugent spoke to the Board on behalf of Arlene Sollis, who traveled to the Congressman’s Washington, D.C. office to plead with him for assistance in expediting construction of a sidewalk and crosswalk along Quality Drive in Spring Hill. The sidewalk and crosswalk are needed for residents of the Vista Grand senior living community and children walking to and from Suncoast Elementary School.

Mr. Nugent stated he first communicated with the Board in November 2015 and finally received a reply in January 2016 from Commissioner Nicholson recommending the residents use THE Bus, since the project was to begin in 2018. Mr. Nugent noted a benefit of local government is the ability to make a difference by helping people they can look in the eye.

Brian Malmberg, Assistant County Administrator, stated the sidewalk/crosswalk project has been in progress for some time. Ms. Sollis requested a sidewalk as early as 2012, and the county investigated the area. The county applied for Transportation Alternative Dollars since there is no local funding available.

Mr. Malmberg stated that the funding has been approved through the Local Agency Program (LAP). The next step is to design the project, which could take up to a year due to the review process, with construction expected to begin by July 2017, the start of the 2018 fiscal year. By comparison, the recently completed Howell Avenue/Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard sidewalk was submitted to the Metropolitan Planning Commission in 2009 or 2010.

Commissioner Wayne Dukes asked whether the Quality Drive project could be divided so that 1,000 feet of sidewalk could be constructed sooner. With funding already approved for the entire project, Mr. Malmberg estimated completion of the smaller section would be shortened by approximately four months.

Ms. Sollis addressed the Board, reminding them that her battle for this project has been long. She thanked Congressman Nugent for his help. “Congressman Nugent understands a sidewalk is not too much to ask. He understands six years is too long to wait.” Others came forward, describing the speed of cars on the road and the way drivers disregard pedestrians and motorized wheelchair users.

Commissioner Jeff Holcomb read State Representative Blaise Ingoglia’s letter into the record that he wished he had been advised sooner, and stating his office contacted FDOT to see if they will review the project and expedite it.

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