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Pasco to study possible road across the Cypress Creek Preserve

Pasco leaders say threats to the environment and on the drinking water supply should be considered, but say a study doesn’t hurt.
The first phase of the Ridge Road Extension in Pasco County opened a year ago. Additional phases to Sunlake Boulevard and U.S. 41 are coming in the future. Now county transportation planners are looking at running the road east of U.S. 41 to someday connect with Interstate 75 at the newly-opened Overpass Road interchange. But that route raises new environmental concers because that would take it right over the Cypress Creek Preserve and a wellfield that provides the entire region with water.
The first phase of the Ridge Road Extension in Pasco County opened a year ago. Additional phases to Sunlake Boulevard and U.S. 41 are coming in the future. Now county transportation planners are looking at running the road east of U.S. 41 to someday connect with Interstate 75 at the newly-opened Overpass Road interchange. But that route raises new environmental concers because that would take it right over the Cypress Creek Preserve and a wellfield that provides the entire region with water. [ Pasco County ]
Published Feb. 27

Pasco leaders looking for more east-west travel options in their growing county have given transportation planners the green light to study another extension of Ridge Road — this one through the 8,506-acre Cypress Creek Preserve.

After years of legal wrangling over the potential environmental harm of a road cutting across the Serenova Preserve, the county opened the first leg of the Ridge Road extension in late 2021. The 4.2-mile stretch connected Moon Lake Road to the Suncoast Parkway, with the next phase to Sunlake Boulevard expected to be completed later this year.

What was to be the final portion of the project, from Sunlake to U.S. 41 and Connerton Boulevard, is slated for completion in 2025. But earlier this month, Carl Mikyska, executive director of the Pasco Metropolitan Planning Organization, brought an idea posed by County Commission chairperson Jack Mariano to the group.

Mikyska suggested a study of an extension from where Ridge Road will end at U.S. 41 east to Overpass Road, where an interchange with Interstate 75 recently opened.

While state roads 52 and 54 already provide east-west travel, there is a large distance between them, he said. Commissioners discussed the pros and cons and agreed to the study.

“I will tell you that the traffic relief we’ve already felt from the Ridge Road extension running from Moon Lake to the Suncoast has been great,” Mariano said.

Having won a recent legal challenge over the extension, Mariano said it was a good time for the county to study the next leg.

“Another road going across the county is going to help us with our transportation issues,” he said.

Jack Mariano, County Commissioner, District 5, attends a Pasco County Commission meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, at the West Pasco Government Center in New Port Richey.
Jack Mariano, County Commissioner, District 5, attends a Pasco County Commission meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, at the West Pasco Government Center in New Port Richey. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Members of the planning organization immediately raised flags since the route would take it through the Cypress Creek Preserve and the Cypress Creek Wellfield, property that provides both local flood relief and water throughout Tampa Bay.

County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey said that there were numerous restrictions on development near the Starkey wellfield, another Pasco wellfield providing water to the area. “I just don’t know what we’d be up against if we go through there,” she said.

Commissioner Seth Weightman also urged caution.

“That area is such a significant area for our water supply and water quality,” he said, “so that studying it is one thing but I think we would really, really need to understand the impacts if we go disturbing that because the water supply is obviously for the Tampa Bay area an essential resource.”

Mariano said the Suncoast Parkway runs through the Serenova Preserve and the Ridge Road extension was built “environmentally very sensitive.” Creating another cross-county connection is critical since so much money was spent to build the existing extension.

“It’s worth a look,” he said.