Commission candidates (mostly) avoid elevated toll road debate

It’s become so controversial, even those seeking the Republican nomination for a seat on the Pasco County Commission are steering clear of it.

Bob Robertson

Bob Robertson

That is except Bob Robertson, who has a very strong position on the proposed elevated toll road for the State Road 54/56 corridor:  “This is one of those ideas that hopefully will go back to wherever it came from very, very soon.”

Robertson joined Mike Moore and former State Rep. Ken Littlefield at the Pasco Federated Republican Women’s Club monthly lunch Friday for the first debate among Republican candidates to replace Pat Mulieri on the Pasco County Commission.

Neither Littlefield nor Moore would take a stand one way or the other on the proposed 33-mile road that would connect U.S. 301 near Zephyrhills and U.S. 19 in New Port Richey. Both, however, said they were looking forward to a town hall meeting planned for Monday night by County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey where the elevated road would be at the top of the agenda.

“If we as a county are approving developments in an area that is already over-congested, I might suggest that we reconsider the process by which we are building houses and where we are building them,” Robertson said. “It’s also been suggested to us that if we don’t build this elevated toll road, there will be 10 lanes (of traffic) each way. I have a hard time seeing that.”

Robertson is likely the underdog in the District 2 race, having yet to match the money of Moore or the name recognition of Littlefield. Yet, the Zephyrhills investment assets manager wasn’t shy about where he stood when it came to the estimated $2.2 billion project that’s ultimately in the hands of the Florida Department of Transportation.

“What if the company goes bankrupt in the middle of building this project?” Robertson asked. “What if they built this toll road and nobody comes, nobody wanting to spend $7 or $8 or $9 to drive on this elevated superhighway? Then what do we do?”

The state nor the county asked for the private company bid for the toll road, and such an unsolicited bid should be treated like an unsolicited sales call, Littlefield said. Although he didn’t take a position, he also warned that even though reports are that this road would be funded privately, that may not end up being the case.

“Ain’t nothing free, folks. Ain’t nothing free,” Littlefield said. “There are a lot of red flags. There’s $2 billion that somebody wants to give to us. Why? Who are they? Do they live in Pasco? Do they live in Florida? Do they live in the United States? I want to know these things.”

Moore says the entrance to the Seven Oaks community where he lives fronts State Road 56, so he’ll be right in the line of fire. Yet, he’s not ready to go yea or nay quite yet.

“Right now, what I am doing is listening to all of you, just as I would be doing if I was sitting on the commission,” Moore said. “What other options are there, because we can’t just say no to something or just say yes to something. What are some other options?”

Starkey’s town hall meeting is March 10 beginning at 7 p.m., in the auditorium of Sunlake High School, 3023 Sunlake Blvd., in Land O’ Lakes.

For more on the debate, check out the March 12 print edition of The Laker.

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