Monday, December 11, 2017
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

Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Floridaís juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scottís administration was defensive and obtuse. So itís welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17