The private elevated toll road proposed for the State Road 54/56 corridor isn’t so private anymore. And that might be enough to cancel the project altogether.
Florida Department of Transportation secretary Ananth Prasad said he has some serious concerns about the controversial 33-mile project, especially after the developers behind the project — International Infrastructure Partners — signaled they would need some taxpayer investment in the project.
“He came to the conclusion that the project does not look very promising,” FDOT spokesman Dick Kane told The Laker/Lutz News. “The reason, he said, was that when they looked into the financials of the unsolicited proposal, it was not what we were initially led to believe.”
Prasad, who was traveling Wednesday, did not have the exact amount IIP expected the state to contribute. However, even a single dollar would be more than what officials were told would be required, as the estimated $2.2 billion project was going to be funded completely by private equity.
Prasad, hearing that there would have to be some public dollars, then suggested in a meeting with the developer last week that it might be time to “hit the reset button,” Kane said.
That does not mean the project is dead, but it certainly is on life support. Prasad plans to meet with the developers again in the next couple of weeks to see if they can hammer out some of the questions that have been raised around the project.
A request for comment from the developers of the proposed project is pending return.
Pasco County administrator Michele Baker, however, said it’s not completely over.
“Pasco County will continue to engage the public and move forward with its analyses and studies in order to determine how to manage future congestion on the State Road 54/56 corridor,” Baker said, in a statement.
The county’s Metropolitan Planning Organization will continue to consider options as it gets ready to adopt its long-range transportation plan in December, Baker said.
Members of a local opposition group Pasco Fiasco say they believe the project has been scrapped, based on what they’ve been told by Pasco County commissioner Jack Mariano, who also opposes the project. However, the group is still planning a rally May 19 at 7 p.m. at Sunlake High School promoting their position.