Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Army Corps seeks public comment on Ridge Road extension

One of Pasco's major environmental battles is back for another round.

Federal officials have begun a new 30-day public comment period on the proposed Ridge Road extension, an east-west route that has long faced objections from environmentalists. County officials are still seeking permits to build the road, mired in what is thought to be the longest-running environmental permit project in the history of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Though not an end to the process, the public comment period is a significant step toward finalizing the review.

"We need to re-engage the public and get their input before we make a decision," said Tracy Hurst, the Corps' project manager.

The two-phase project would link Ridge Road to the Suncoast Parkway, and then on to U.S. 41, easing traffic congestion in central Pasco and giving west Pasco residents another hurricane evacuation route. But environmentalists' biggest objection is that the highway would cut through the Serenova Preserve, a 6,000-acre swath of wilderness.

Serenova was set aside "for the specific purpose of mitigating the 200 acres of damage caused by the Suncoast Parkway," said Clay Colson, spokesman of the environmental group Citizens for Sanity. Destroying wetlands in Serenova, he said, amounts to breaking that promise.

Supporters say the limited-access highway would provide better access to west Pasco and the Suncoast for those living in Connerton and other neighborhoods along U.S. 41.

"Highway 41 is kind of in limbo," said Donna Cardellino, a Port Richey Realtor who has spent the past month whipping up public support for the project. "If that was opened up, they would come on down to the U.S. 19 corridor and I'm sure do much more business."

Cardellino also said the road would be a critical lifeline for residents who would be "trapped" during a hurricane. County Commissioner Pat Mulieri penned a letter to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson last month, arguing that it's evident Pasco "needs congressional assistance" to get the project approved.

Pasco County first applied for a permit to extend the road in 1998. Last December, after more than a decade of review, the Corps deemed the county's application "withdrawn." But it gave officials a year to resubmit their plans.

In May, the county sent another application with a fresh plan to address environmental impacts. After receiving comments from the public, the Corps said it will evaluate the application "over the next several months."

Once a decision comes down, the process still might not be over. Colson promises a lawsuit if the agency grants the permit. "We'll be in federal court," he said. "That's what you've got to do when the powers that be ignore their rules."

The county also has the option of going to court if the Corps denies the permit.

The details

The first phase of the project is a 4.2-mile highway from the end of Ridge Road to a new interchange on the Suncoast. The second phase would span another 3.4 miles to U.S. 41. According to a summary provided by the Corps, the county has budgeted $132 million for the project. The Florida Department of Transportation would be responsible for building intersections on either side of the parkway.

The county proposes a plan to minimize disturbances to the Florida scrub jay, gopher tortoise and other animals that live in Serenova. It includes nine wildlife crossings under the road. Colson argues that the county's environmental and wildlife studies are outdated and should not be used on the new application.

To compensate for destroying 59 acres of wetlands, the county plans to preserve 220 acres of swampland in between the River Ridge subdivision and Starkey Wilderness Park.

In addition, the county would preserve one of three other tracts:

• An 830-acre strip of the 4G Ranch to connect the Conner Preserve with the Pinellas-owned Cross Bar Ranch, creating a "wildlife corridor" that allows animals to roam between large preserves.

• Or 519 acres known as the Crockett Lake tract, just east of Moon Lake Road and along the proposed Ridge Road extension.

• Or 881 acres of the Starkey Ranch near Trinity. It features much of the land that was the subject of a proposed land deal with the Southwest Florida Water Management District. Gov. Rick Scott's administration scuttled that sale in June.

As part of the DOT's interchange project, 11 acres of wetlands would be destroyed. The department proposes setting aside 86 acres of borrow ponds and rangeland on either side of the new highway. The department also proposes using "excess mitigation credits" from the Suncoast project. The argument is that the DOT preserved more than enough land to compensate for wetland loss.

Lee Logan can be reached at or (727) 869-6236.

>>submit your thoughts

To weigh in

To see documents related to the project, go to and click on "Ridge Road Extension."

Submit comments by Dec. 28 to project manager Tracy Hurst of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Mail comments to 10117 Princess Palm Ave., Suite 120, Tampa, FL 33610, email to or fax to (813) 769-7061.

Army Corps seeks public comment on Ridge Road extension 11/29/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 8:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Forecast: Lots of sunshine, low humidity to start Memorial Day weekend


    The start of your long Memorial Day weekend is all sunshine this Saturday, according to WTSP 10Weather meteorologist Rick Kearbey.

    WTSP seven-day forecast on May 27, 2017.
  2. For starters: Rays at Twins, looking for another with Odorizzi starting


    The Rays are looking to keep rolling when they make a quick turnaround after Friday's win over the Twins and are back on the field for a matinee today, 2:10 first pitch Tampa Bay time.

    RHP Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound for the Rays, coming off a good but not great start against the Angels, though buoyed …

  3. Global computer outage grounds British flights


    LONDON — British Airways canceled all flights from London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports Saturday as a global IT failure caused severe disruption for travelers on a busy holiday weekend.

    British Airways planes are parked at Heathrow Airport in January. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, file)
  4. Road rage incident leaves uninvolved man, 52, with critical injuries in Pinellas Park


    PINELLAS PARK — A 52-year-old man was critically injured after an apparent road rage incident that shut down the area of a U.S. 19 overpass for nearly six hours on Friday, police said.

    Pinellas Park police say a man has critical injuries after a truck involved in a road rage incident slammed into him after he cut off another vehicle. (Pinellas Park Police Department)
  5. Britain lowers terror threat level to 'severe' as more arrested


    MANCHESTER, England — Britain reduced its terrorism threat level a notch, from "critical" to "severe," as authorities said major progress has been made in unravelling the plot behind the Manchester bombing. More arrests are expected.

    An army bomb disposal team works with members of the police in the Moss Side area of Manchester, England, on Saturday. British police say they are evacuating residents around a house being searched in connection with the Manchester concert bombing. Police are searching a number of properties and have 11 suspects in custody in connection with Monday's explosion at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, which killed more than 20 people and injured dozens. (Jonathan Brady/PA via AP)