Monday, February 19, 2018
News Roundup

Pasco officials remain interested in elevated toll road

NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco commissioners on Tuesday gave their blessing to a feasibility study linked to a proposed toll road on State Roads 54 and 56 in south Pasco County, but they couldn't agree on whether to back the project without more information and public input.

The approval, at the request of state transportation officials, came a week before developers are due to submit proposals to build and operate a privately run toll road along the highways.

The project, which has yet to be approved, would run about 33 miles and link U.S. 19 to Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, Interstate 75 and possibly U.S. 301. Much of it would be elevated.

It has drawn tentative support from state transportation officials who argue it would expand the highway system while involving limited taxpayer dollars. It could also offer a windfall in the form of right-of-way leases.

But before moving forward, transportation officials wanted to clarify whether the county backed the project, or at least the next logical step: a feasibility study.

Commissioners said they backed the study, voting 5-0 in support, but on the larger question of whether to wholeheartedly embrace the project, they were divided.

Most said they needed more information and wanted to know whether it made more sense to build an elevated toll road elsewhere, possibly along Ridge Road.

"We haven't had a public session on this and we haven't had any buy-in from the public," Commissioner Ted Schrader said.

Commissioners said they have heard from Pasco residents who are equally concerned. Some said they believe the project is already approved while others said they feared it will result in soaring overpasses that will divide south Pasco.

County development director Richard Gehring gave commissioners an overview. He suggested the road could be constructed on pilings to allow roads, sidewalks and bike lanes to pass underneath. It could allow for managed bus lanes, helping to solve public transportation needs.

Officials have debated the idea since June when a development group called International Infrastructure Partners submitted a proposal to state transportation officials to build and operate an elevated toll road in south Pasco.

After strong support initially, enthusiasm waned when the Urban Land Institute visited the county in early October and suggested officials not proceed with the elevated toll road. The institute hasn't yet issued a final report but in initial remarks noted that many cities are tearing down their elevated highways for aesthetic reasons. Hearing this, some officials said it might be better to step back and re-evaluate the idea.

International Infrastructure withdrew its proposal shortly after, citing an "unfavorable" political climate. The company said it would resubmit its plan in December. Proposals are due Monday.

Rich Shopes can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6236.

Comments
Water Wars starting to simmer again in Tampa Bay

Water Wars starting to simmer again in Tampa Bay

CLEARWATER — A simmering feud between Tampa and the regional water authority avoided boiling over Monday, but little was resolved.At a Tampa Bay Water meeting, board members requested Tampa work with the agency on the city’s plan to convert tens of m...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Ex-workers at Russian ‘troll factory’ trust U.S. indictment

Ex-workers at Russian ‘troll factory’ trust U.S. indictment

Associated PressST. PETERSBURG, Russia — While Russian officials scoff at a U.S. indictment charging 13 Russians with meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, several people who worked at the same St. Petersburg, Russia, "troll factory" say t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Man sought in sexual assault of woman, 71, in New Port Richey

Man sought in sexual assault of woman, 71, in New Port Richey

NEW PORT RICHEY — Deputies are searching for a man who they said broke into a home and raped a 71-year-old woman on Monday.The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said the woman was checking on a home at 7437 Heather St. for the homeowner at about 8:15 a.m...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Trump offers support for limited effort on background checks

Trump offers support for limited effort on background checks

Associated PressWEST PALM BEACH — From the confines of his Mar-a-Lago golf club, President Donald Trump offered support Monday for a limited strengthening of federal background checks on gun purchases while staying largely mum in the past few days ab...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Puerto RicoJudge grants $300M loan for power companyA federal judge on Monday approved a $300 million loan for Puerto Rico’s power company that officials say will help keep the troubled agency operating until late March. The judge had originally reje...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Grief-filled funerals also can be cathartic

Grief-filled funerals also can be cathartic

PARKLAND — Each funeral for the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High massacre is different, yet the same: the mourning relatives, teens walking in clutches wearing black, politicians paying their respects, media cameras pointing at the entran...
Updated: 1 hour ago

U.S. input unlikely on climate rule book

VIENNA — The climate rule book being drafted to keep a lid on Earth’s rising temperatures should be finished by the end of the year — with or without the U.S. government’s help.Countries that ratified the Paris climate agreement will meet in December...
Updated: 1 hour ago
St. Petersburg set to rename main library after President Obama

St. Petersburg set to rename main library after President Obama

ST. PETERSBURG — Speaking in front of a small crowd gathered on the front lawn of the city’s main library, Mayor Rick Kriseman announced Monday that the facility will get a $6 million renovation and be renamed in honor of President Barack Obama.The a...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Pa. Supreme Court redraws districts

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court drew new boundaries for the state’s congressional districts on Monday, releasing a map that, if it stands, could play a significant role in Democratic Party efforts to gain control of the House of Representatives in the...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Police identify man found dead in Tampa apartment

TAMPA — Police on Monday released the identity of the man who was found dead inside an apartment last week.Officers said it was Abdirashid Ali, 50, who was discovered around 3 p.m. Friday at The Courtyard on the River Apartments, 5217 Sonora Court.De...
Updated: 3 hours ago