Trump 'listening session' perfect time to discuss Pasco's plight
Gov. Rick Scott is scheduled to be at the White House Thursday as President Trump holds a "listening session" on how to improve America's infrastructure (on Scott's official schedule, it's a four-hour event). It seems like the perfect moment for Scott to nudge the President on a long-delayed road project in the heart of Pasco County.
The Tampa Bay Times has been chronicling the story of the Ridge Road Extension project since the days when people watched Seinfeld -- the first time -- and Bill Clinton was in the White House. It's an eight-mile, multi-lane county highway linking Ridge Road's terminus at Moon Lake Road to U.S. 41 in central Pasco. Environmentalists consider the project a threat to wildlife habitats, and the rising cost of land acquisition has become a problem, the Times reported last year.
Scott sent a letter and a background packet to the White House on March 23 with a plea for help from the feds, about three weeks after the governor got a letter urging action from Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater.
"For 19 years," Scott wrote, "federal permits have delayed Pasco County's work to develop the Ridge Road Extension, which will provide critical hurricane and tropical storm evacuation capacity for more than 200,000 residents in the county's coastal areas." The enclosed packet said Pasco's population has grown 37 percent in the past decade and will close in on 1 million people by the year 2040.
The governor said a permit required under the Clean Water Act is the last remaining hurdle and asked that the prokect be given an expedited review by the Army Corps of Engineers under an executive order Trump signed a few days after he took office in January. Scott's office has not provided details of any response from Washington.
"When I was in business," Scott wrote, "I often waited a long time for a simple yes or no. Regardless of what the reason is, Pasco County deserves a timely response."