1. Transportation

Officials question road recommendations for Pasco's southern corridor

Published Jun. 16, 2016

NEW PORT RICHEY — Figuring out how to move east-west traffic along Pasco County's southern corridor is facing a new obstacle — incredulity.

"I want to be sure that is the recommendation of the task force and not the staff or (the Florida Department of Transportation)," County Commissioner Ted Schrader said.

Fellow Commissioner Jack Mariano was even more blunt.

"Everything I see here is about the toll road," he said. "We're going to get the same explosion we got two or three years ago when the people say, 'We don't want it.' "

Their reactions came last week as the Metropolitan Planning Organization considered recommendations from a pair of citizen task forces on future transportation options along the State Road 54 and State Road 56 corridor from Trinity to Wesley Chapel.

Many of the half-dozen recommendations focused on elevated intersections or, in one instance, an elevated highway above the entire corridor, most of which would carry tolls for motorists. The two task forces, representing east and west Pasco, also included a no-build alternative. It was the top choice among the eastside task force.

But commissioners and elected city officials, sitting as transportation planners, couldn't escape the memory of an unsolicited bid from a private company in 2013 to build and operate a $2 billion elevated toll road across the entire corridor. It drew bitter public opposition, and the idea died a year later after the private company acknowledged it would need public subsidies to make the project work.

So, the county assembled the task forces in 2015 to begin the planning process again, in anticipation of having to include some alternative in the next update to its long-range transportation plan. Even with the formal recommendations, some task force members objected to anything involving elevated lanes.

"Why are we stuffing this big project down our throats again?" asked Christie Zimmer of Land O'Lakes, a member of the east task force.

Others offered parochial concerns.

"Our county's safety and not somebody else's should be paramount," said Sandra Graves of Land O'Lakes, chairwoman of the east task force.

Marilynn deChant of New Port Richey urged commissioners to use caution in approving more development "at this time when we really have to have better transportation for our residents."

Eventually, the MPO accepted the recommendations to keep a combined task force working to narrow the choices further before engaging a consultant, possibly next year, for a more thorough vetting. Mariano dissented, saying the task force should expand its study options to include rail. But his idea found no support.

"I don't see any negatives with moving forward," Dade City Mayor Camille Hernandez said.

"Something has to be done sooner rather than later," New Port Richey City Council member Jeff Starkey said in agreement.

The state and county are seeking transportation options because Pasco projects 135,000 people will be moving to the vicinity of the SR 54/56 corridor over the next 25 years. The intersection at U.S. 41 in central Pasco already carries nearly 100,000 vehicles daily. An FDOT study of building an elevated intersection, carrying SR 54 over U.S. 41, is on hold until the county completes its own review of the entire corridor.


  1. Cars back up at a Tampa intersection last October, not long before Hillsborough County voters approved a one-cent sales tax for transportation improvements. This week, local officials detailed how the money would be spent, if the tax survives a legal challenge before the Florida Supreme Court. URSO, CHRIS  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Local governments have plans for $527 million in projects. But the Florida Supreme Court would need to clear the way.
  2. The Florida Supreme Court building in Tallahassee. SCOTT KEELER  |  Times
    The Tampa Bay Partnership, Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce and Tampa-Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. filed a brief in the Florida Supreme Court.
  3. The Florida Department of Transportation is installing lights on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge as part of a $15 million project. During tests this weekend, engineers will illuminate the bridge in a pink hue to commemorate breast cancer awareness month. Courtesy of Florida Department of Transportation
    The Florida Department of Transportation is lighting up the span this weekend to commemorate breast cancer awareness month.
  4. The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is hoping to secure a $21.8 million federal grant to help pay for a bus rapid transit line connecting downtown St. Petersburg and the beaches. St. Petersburg City  Council approved an interlocal agreement Thursday supporting the project. ALESSANDRA DA PRA | Times
    Pinellas transit officials hope the project will get a federal grant in 2020. However, St. Pete Beach and South Pasadena still oppose it.
  5. The Cross Bay Ferry, Provincetown III leaves the Vinoy Yacht Basin in January with passengers headed to Tampa. For departure times and fares for this season, which will go from Nov. 1 through April 30, check [SCOTT KEELER | Times] SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Now in its third year, the ferry will run Wednesdays through Sundays, with service for every Tampa Bay Lightning home game.
  6. Col. Jennifer Crossman smiles as Boomer, a 5-year-old dog, sits in the passenger seat of her car during the firefighter challenge at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. [Times (2016)] Tampa Bay Times
    Uber customers can now be connected with willing animal chauffeurs — for a fee.
  7. OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times Pasco County's long-range transportation plan no longer includes a proposed sales tax increase.
    The federally required plan guides transportation needs and expenses through 2045.
  8. Ryan Cummings, 23, of Tampa, left, and Alex Frey, 25, also of Tampa, rent Spin electric scooters from a corral located along Zack Street Tuesday, May 28, 2019 in Tampa. Electric scooter companies Spin, Bird, Lime and Jump were being deployed within the next few weeks according to a tweet from the City of Tampa on Sunday. Campbell and Henigan spent a couple of hours Tuesday trying the electric scooters. Frey and his friend Ryan Cummings rented two scooters during their lunch break. "We are going to Armature Works, we couldn’t do that without these." said Frey. CHRIS URSO  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Plus the most bizarre incidents of electric scooter vandalism around the city.
  9. The traffic signal for eastbound traffic on Drew Street at McMullen-Booth Road in Clearwater. Image by Archive
    A reader wonders why the sign at the end of Bayside Bridge instructs trucks heading north to exit during specified hours rather than stay on the bridge.
  10. In this Feb. 23, 2015 photo, a car is hauled from a canal in West Palm Beach, Fla. The driver was taken to a local hospital where he died. Palm Beach County has over 300 miles of canals, built to move water. Since 1997, 181 people have drowned in vehicles that ended in canals. (Lannis Waters/Palm Beach Post via AP) LANNIS WATERS  |  AP
    Of the nearly 1,100 people nationwide who died from 2013 to 2017 when vehicles went into water, 1 in 6 died in Florida.