Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco Commission pushes for funds now for Ridge Road extension

NEW PORT RICHEY — Last week, Pasco commissioners learned the long-awaited Ridge Road extension could run, literally, into a dead end.

The Florida Turnpike Enterprise is not setting aside over the next five years the $21-million needed to link the first phase of the proposed four-lane highway to the Suncoast Parkway.

But given their hope that federal approval for the project could be close, commissioners on Tuesday decided to lean on their transportation lobbyist and state legislators to fight for the turnpike funding now rather than later.

"We can't just sit here and twiddle our thumbs," Commissioner Ann Hildebrand said at Tuesday's meeting.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, called Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Kopelousos last week and asked her to look into getting some money for the interchange.

"We're behind it 100 percent and I've been behind it 100 percent," he said.

His pitch: At least start setting aside a portion of that $21-million so that it could be available in roughly two years.

Fasano had asked County Administrator John Gallagher when he expected the road to be built out to the Suncoast Parkway.

Two years was the answer — if the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approval comes through over the next couple of months and if there are no challenges to the permit.

But Fasano acknowledged that it might not be an easy case to make: Transportation officials do not want to reserve that much money for a project with so much uncertainty, especially when the turnpike's revenues have taken such a huge hit.

"It's important for everyone to understand we're talking $21-million," said Fasano, who has helped keep the Ridge Road interchange project in the state's five-year work plans until this year.

"If Ridge Road was going, this would never have happened," he said.

Envisioned as an east-west hurricane evacuation route, the Ridge Road extension has been plagued by delays, most recently dealing with environmental concerns.

Commissioners were livid last week after learning that Florida Turnpike Enterprise had dropped the Ridge Road exchange from its five-year work plan. Instead, the turnpike has allocated $33.5-million for resurfacing the parkway.

Back in 2005, commissioners had agreed to let the turnpike put the then-$13.5-million interchange on the back burner. The understanding? When the county got its permit in hand, the turnpike would move the interchange project back to the front.

Turnpike officials say that their previous investments show they've been committed to the project until the economy forced them to cut $2.5-billion dollars worth of future projects, including the Ridge Road interchange, from their five-year work plan.

When they were first building the Suncoast Parkway, for instance, they changed their construction plans to accommodate the proposed Ridge Road interchange. That change cost between $6-million and $7-million, said Raymond Ashe, director of government affairs for Florida's Turnpike Enterprise.

In addition, turnpike officials spent around $1-million earlier this decade to design the interchange, "which would have allowed us to move forward quickly once Pasco County had obtained their environmental clearances," Ashe said.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at or (727) 869-6247.

Pasco Commission pushes for funds now for Ridge Road extension 12/16/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 16, 2009 8:57pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Evening update: Tropical Storm Harvey forms in Atlantic, second wave follows


    UPDATE: At 8 p.m. the National Hurricane Center said a hurricane hunter plane had determined that Tropical Storm Harvey had formed with sustained winds of 40 mph.

    Three tropical waves are expected to strengthen as they move across the Atlantic Ocean. [Courtesy of the National Hurricane Center]
  2. Trump 'beautiful statues' tweets roil Tampa Bay's own Confederate debate


    It started Thursday at 9:07 a.m., as it does so often these days, with a tweet:

    The Memoria in Aeterna Confederate monument stands in front of the old Hillsborough County Courthouse. Hillsborough County Commissioners voted 4-2 last month to move it to a private cemetery in Brandon before voting again this week to put a deadline on a public sector fundraising campaign to pay part of the cost. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  3. Rays waste repeated opportunities in 5-3 loss to Blue Jays

    The Heater

    TORONTO — Rays manager Kevin Cash made a case for urgency before Thursday's game, in both actions and words, making significant changes to the structure of the lineup and sincere comments about time running short.

    Trevor Plouffe of the Rays reacts as he pops out with the bases loaded in the sixth inning. [Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images]
  4. Spanish PM voices solidarity with Barcelona


    BARCELONA, Spain — Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says his country is mourning in solidarity with the city of Barcelona and other cities in Europe that have been hit by deadly extremist attacks.

    An injured person is treated in Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017 after a white van jumped the sidewalk in the historic Las Ramblas district, crashing into a summer crowd of residents and tourists and injuring several people, police said. [Associated Press]
  5. Confederate statue: Why Bucs, Lightning, Rays took a stand


    They didn't want another Charlottesville.

    Marc Rodriguez, a member of the "Florida Fight for $15" organization, stands in protest along with other activists demanding the Confederate  monument be removed from the old Hillsborough County Courthouse in Tampa. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]