DADE CITY — Pasco commissioners decided to pay a Washington, D.C., firm $512,000 to rewrite a permit application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of the long-delayed Ridge Road Extension project.
Commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to hire Dawson & Associates after a presentation by a senior adviser at the firm and County Administrator Michele Baker, who noted the road could become a critical route during a hurricane.
Almost half of Pasco's population lives near the Gulf Coast and 178,000 live within two miles of Ridge Road, yet Pasco has only two east-west evacuation routes, state roads 52 and 54.
Technically, Dawson will work for Lewis, Longman & Walker, the law firm hired in May 2010 to monitor the permitting process and, if a permit is granted by the Army Corps, defend the county in the event environmentalists sue to block the project.
The year-long contract has the potential to grow to $722,000.
Pasco officials have pushed for the extension for more than a decade as a way to provide another east-west route across the county, often to the ire of environmental groups. The road would run from Moon Lake Road to the Suncoast Parkway and U.S. 41. About $13 million has been spent on the project so far, including $6.7 million on permitting and planning work.