Gerald H. Stanley knows all too well what State Road 54 is like about 5 p.m.
"I know better to avoid rush hour," said Stanley, a longtime engineer from Lutz who submitted an unsolicited bid last summer to the Florida Department of Transportation to build an elevated toll road stretching across the SR 54 corridor from U.S. 19 to U.S. 301.
On Wednesday, his plan cleared a first hurdle when the state accepted his bid, which had no competition. But it'll be years before the first commuter glides over the asphalt, if it happens at all.
"It's not a done deal," Stanley said.
In addition to hammering out an agreement with the state to lease right-of-way, the group called International Infrastructure Partners must do a feasibility study to determine whether the 33-mile road, dubbed 54 XPress, would be profitable for investors.
"We're not going to go in there and build a road just to build a road," Stanley said. The project, if built, would be the state's first road built entirely with private money.
Under the proposal released this week, the consortium would pay FDOT a yearly stipend of $1.05 million for 45 years, with a maximum lease for 99 years, the most allowed by law.
According to the proposal, "there is no risk to the taxpayers in the event that the project does not meet its revenue expectations, or cannot fulfill its debt obligations."
It estimates that the proposed road would create 1,000 jobs during construction.
State officials say it's too early to determine how long the project would take.
The road would no doubt cross Interstate 75 and the Suncoast Parkway, so federal agencies would be involved, said FDOT's Debbie Hunt.
"We're still really in a gray area," she said. Environmental studies could take anywhere from two to seven years.
The idea, which comes as state officials are looking to partner with developers on toll projects, has been embraced as a way to expand the highway system without burdening taxpayers with construction costs.