LAND O' LAKES — Toll road supporters and detractors will get a chance to argue their positions at a meeting Monday, and for the first time officials from the state's Department of Transportation will attend to hear concerns about the proposed road.
Pasco Commissioner Kathryn Starkey said she's holding the town hall meeting at 7 p.m. at Sunlake High School, 3023 Sunlake Blvd., in Land O'Lakes to talk about the toll road proposal as well as other transportation issues. She expects 300 to 400 people may attend.
Among those expected are DOT representatives involved in reviewing the project, called FL 54 Express.
This would be mark the first town hall involving both Pasco and DOT officials since the project was brought to the department last summer. Previous town halls involved Pasco County staff only.
The DOT is charged with reviewing and approving the project, but is seeking support from Pasco. The project's backers consist of a private consortium including local engineer Gerald Stanley, a New York-based financier and a Spanish construction company, OHL Infrastructure.
"This proposal has the potential to create numerous jobs for Floridians, improve traffic flow in Pasco County and enhance economic development. However, we want to hear what the community wants to help with growing congestion in this area," DOT Secretary Ananth Prasad said of the project.
If approved, the four-lane elevated road would run above State Roads 54/56, spanning south Pasco. Initial phases would place the road between Interstate 75 and the Suncoast Parkway, about 10 miles, but the highway could eventually stretch from U.S. 19 to U.S. 301, tying into the Suncoast Parkway, U.S. 41 and I-75.
The project has drawn scores of detractors and some support in south Pasco.
Pasco Fiasco, the ad-hoc citizens group opposed to the project, recently created an online petition that had more than 600 signatures by Friday. The website says it's aiming for 1,000.
Another group called 54 Corridor - Just the Facts has formed as well. This group seems to favor the proposal, even though its website, 54corridor-justthefacts.yolasite.com, says it's aiming to provide "information without personal bias."
It's unclear who runs the site and whether it's connected to the project.