A new route to a Dade City hospital is a go, but redeveloping and beautifying a central Pasco highway hit a stop sign on Friday.
That was the fallout from Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoing $131 million worth of spending from the $91.1 billion state budget approved by legislators in May.
The governor vetoed three Pasco-specific projects: $1 million for a redevelopment plan for Land O' Lakes Boulevard (U.S. 41) in central Pasco; $1 million for the Miller's Bayou waterfront to design and build a pedestrian path beneath U.S. 19 at the Pithlachascotee River; and $650,000 for capital construction at the Academy at the Farm charter school in east Pasco.
But escaping the veto pen was $5 million for Morningside Drive in Dade City, a project vetoed a year ago by then-Gov. Rick Scott. The dollars should help complete the missing link to connect Morningside Drive from U.S. 301 to Fort King Road and the adjacent AdventHealth Dade City hospital.
"We've very pleased Morningside Drive can get built. That's going to save a life. That's a connector road that goes directly to the hospital,'' said Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby.
Dade City officials shared the enthusiasm.
"We all knew it was a worthy project. It was a matter of when the time was right for it,'' City Manager Leslie Porter said of the prior veto.
The city wants to connect Morningside Drive to improve a grid system between U.S. 301 and State Road 52. The hospital wants the connection to curb inefficient ambulance routes for emergency medical care.
It's been a long wait. More than 20 years go, county road planners conducted a public survey to determine the most important transportation needs facing the people who lived and worked in Pasco. East Pasco residents picked Morningside Drive as their top priority.
Other officials are hopeful the wait to improve U.S. 41 won't be nearly as long. The redevelopment plan and improved landscaping had been a priority for Pasco Commissioner Mike Moore, who was unavailable for comment Friday.
"I think it's an important project," said Rep. Ardian Zika, R-Land O' Lakes, who sponsored the appropriation. "I'm going to work with the governor again next year. It's a process.''
Zika said he was grateful the governor approved other projects, including $150,000 for a stormwater pump station on Howard Avenue in Dade City and $485,000 for BayCare BehaviorHealth veterans intervention program. Other local money in the state budget includes $250,0000 for Youth and Family Alternatives youth shelters, and $250,0000 for Veterans Alternative's wellness program.
The veto of the Miller's Bayou spending came just two days after the county held a stakeholders' meeting asking for public input on redeveloping the waterfront. The walkway beneath U.S. 19 is considered a key element for bolstering pedestrian safety. There were 44 vehicle crashes involving pedestrians, including nine fatalities, on the Pasco portion of U.S. 19, according to 2017 data.
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Contact C.T. Bowen at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 435-7306. Follow @CTBowen2.