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No money left for Pasco's Ridge Road extension

DADE CITY — County commissioners hoping to secure a permit for the long-awaited Ridge Road extension got some disappointing news Thursday from the Florida Turnpike Enterprise.

Money to pay for the interchange to connect the road to the Suncoast Parkway is once again missing from the agency's five-year-plan.

"We just do not have the funding for Ridge Road in the work program," said Shannon Estep, the turnpike enterprise's government liaison. She said the turnpike's priorities are safety and preservation rather than making improvements or adding capacity.

Commissioners, who were meeting as part of the county's Metropolitan Planning Organization, the county's top transportation planning group, were not happy. County officials have said they are close to getting a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to extend Ridge Road east to the parkway and U.S. 41.

Commissioners said when they agreed in 2005 to let the turnpike put the $13.5 million interchange on the back burner, they thought they would have the ability to change that as the permit process progressed.

Instead, Florida Turnpike Enterprise has allocated $33.5 million for resurfacing the parkway.

Estep said revenues are down 7 percent from last year and 12 percent for the past two years.

Commissioners asked whether that money could be shifted to the interchange. Not likely, Estep said, but she promised to pass the MPO's concerns along to her bosses.

Commissioner Jack Mariano questioned the need for any resurfacing.

"It feels just fine to me," he said.

In other business, the MPO adopted its $9.7 billion long-range transportation plan, which covers 2015 to 2035.

Here are highlights of the projects on the list:

• Improve Interstate 75 to six lanes north of State Road 56.

• Develop managed lanes on the SR 54/SR 56 corridor to accommodate enhanced mobility options, including premium public transportation such as express buses.

• Modify U.S. 19 throughout Pasco County to include enhanced medians and continuous right turn lanes.

• Extend and improve SR 56 east to U.S. 301 as a four-lane divided highway.

• Improve SR 52 to be a four-lane divided road from the Suncoast Parkway to Dade City with sections of new I-75 improved to six-lanes divided.

• Expand sections of Little Road to six lanes.

• Develop Tower Road as a four-lane divided road from Gunn Highway to U.S. 41, including a new bridge over the Suncoast Parkway.

• Improve County Line Road (Pasco/Hernando) to four lanes divided from East Road to the Suncoast Parkway.

No money left for Pasco's Ridge Road extension 12/10/09 [Last modified: Thursday, December 10, 2009 8:57pm]

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