Monday, May 21, 2018
Editorials

Imperative Ridge Road Extension contains safeguards for preserve

To safely move motorists between west and central Pasco, the county needs to add at least 10 new lanes of highways over the next two decades. Trying to get the first four built remains a tedious chore after 12 years.

The planned Ridge Road Extension, from Decubellis Road in Moon Lake to U.S. 41 in Land O' Lakes with an interchange at the Suncoast Parkway, is a vital piece of an improved east-west transportation network as both an emergency evacuation route and as an alternative to congested state highways. The Ridge Road Extension should not be sidetracked by emotional arguments that fail to acknowledge the redesigned highway's environmental safeguards to limit sprawl, protect wildlife and mitigate damaged wetlands.

The objections center on the planned route through the Serenova Preserve, a 6,000-acre parcel once planned as a 6,400-home development. The state purchased the site in the 1990s to compensate for 200 acres of wetlands destroyed by the Suncoast Parkway construction. In conserving the land, the state agreed to allow the planned Ridge Road route to remain on the Serenova property and to pay for the parkway interchange. The county, however, has yet to win approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is again accepting public comment on the project until Jan. 27.

The time line of this road plan predating the creation of the preserve is often overlooked. Extending Ridge Road westward first appeared on the county's long-range transportation maps in the 1980s. At the time, some Gowers Corner residents favored it as a preferred alternative to a wider State Road 52. Later, Ridge Road became a more important part of the county's plans after Pasco scuttled the Bi-County Thruway, a planned toll road connecting Trinity and San Antonio.

Expecting the existing highways of State Roads 54 and 52 — even with eventual expansions — to suffice in meeting east-west traffic demands is short-sighted. Already, the four-lane stretch of SR 54 between U.S. 41 and the Suncoast Parkway is heavily traveled by morning and afternoon commuters, by traffic headed to the middle and high school complex on Sunlake Boulevard, and by residents of the subdivisions abutting the highway. Traffic will get even heavier with the planned construction of the T. Rowe Price campus and other development along the highway. SR 52, meanwhile, remains a two-lane road east of the parkway, even though unkept promises to widen the road all the way to I-75 date to the Gov. Bob Martinez administration.

Ridge Road is designed as a limited-access four-lane highway that will carry traffic traveling 65 mph, and it is not intended to be a spine for unbridled growth. The plans include multiple wildlife crossings, and the county will set aside up to 1,100 acres of swamps and uplands to compensate for the 59 acres of wetlands destroyed by the highway construction.

The environmental accommodations are reasonable. So, too, is Pasco County's attempts to plan adequately for its current and future transportation needs. The Ridge Road Extension remains an imperative part of that plan.

Comments
Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice they’ve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institution’s lack of candor to the community. Regulators have determined the hospital broke Florida law by ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18
Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

St. Petersburg’s 3-year-old recycling program has reached an undesirable tipping point, with operating costs exceeding the income from selling the recyclable materials. The shift is driven by falling commodity prices and new policies in China that cu...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Housing Secretary Ben Carson has a surefire way to reduce the waiting lists for public housing: Charge more to people who already live there. Hitting a family living in poverty with rent increases of $100 or more a month would force more people onto ...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

It’s a safe bet Florida will get caught up in the frenzy to legalize wagering on sports following the U.S. Supreme Court opinion this week that lifted a federal ban. Struggling horse and dog tracks would love a new line of business, and state l...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/16/18