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Parts of elevated highway could be lowered

The private company proposing an elevated toll road in south Pasco County is considering whether to place sections of the road at ground level.

Frank Chupka, a Department of Transportation administrator in Tampa, said Thursday that state officials asked the company to consider placing some of the 33-mile highway at ground level to appease residents and businesses after a public backlash.

The road would still track along the State Road 54/56 corridor in south Pasco, but at some point it would transition from an elevated structure to a ground-level highway, Chupka said.

The existing highway would be bowed out to make room for the four-lane road, which would run in the center along the median.

The project has angered residents who worry an elevated road would hurt property values, cause noise and pollution and become a neighborhood eyesore.

A group called Pasco Fiasco has gathered 1,500 online signatures from residents opposed to the project, said Rich Connors, one of the group's organizers.

The company, Florida 54 Express LLC, submitted the proposal to the DOT in December. The DOT will decide by the end of the year whether to allow the project to proceed, Chupka said.

The project's fate also depends on whether Pasco residents support the road, he said. The department will hold public hearings in June or July.