A permit to clear the way for the construction of the Ridge Road Extension is expected to be granted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers within the next four weeks to six weeks, Pasco County Administrator Dan Biles said.
That would signal the end of a two-decade effort to secure the federal permit needed to create a new 7.6-mile east-west connection from Moon Lake Road in New Port Richey to U.S. 41, in Land O’ Lakes.
The only way for the county to be absolutely sure it will receive the permit is for the Corps of Engineers to issue it, Biles said.
“They won’t ever tell you that you’re going to get the permit until they sign the letter on the permit, giving you the permit. They’ll never tell you, ‘Yea, you’re going to get approval on the permit’ until then. That isn’t the way the Corps works,” the administrator said.
That being said, it appears that everything is lining up toward the county obtaining the permit, Biles told those gathered at Sept. 17 breakfast meeting of The Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce at Scotland Yards Golf Club, on U.S. 301 in Dade City.
While the county awaits the permit, it is preparing to move ahead with the project.
The first phase of the project, which is funded, is from Ridge Road in New Port Richey to the Suncoast Parkway. The second phase of the extension, not yet funded, will provide a link between the Suncoast Parkway and U.S. 41 in Land O’ Lakes.
Biles told the breakfast crowd: “The construction project is actually on the street today, so we can bid that and start work the day I get the call from the Corps.
“We’ve got it set so that, I get the call from the Corps, I call public works, I call the project manager. They get our consultant out there and start removing the gopher tortoises off the right of way.
“Our surveying crew is already working on surveying the right of way,” Biles added.
The contract includes three milestones, with bonuses available to the contractor if the work is completed within certain timelines.
The Pasco County Commission approved the approach.
“It’s pretty unique. It took a lot of work in the county attorney’s office to set it up,” Biles said.
The first milestone involves providing a secondary access to River Ridge High and River Ridge Middle, before the school year begins in August 2020.
To achieve that, Biles said he would need the permit in hand, and a contractor notice to proceed, by Dec. 1.
“That’s a goal to hit that, and we can do it,” Biles said.
The second milestone is to have two lanes of Ridge Road open to the Suncoast Parkway, and to have the interchange operational before Hurricane Season 2021, Biles said.
“So, we’re going to get there, open up two lanes, we’re going to breathe and relax for about 30 seconds, then they’re going to finish the other two lanes, finish the project by the next hurricane season,” the administrator added.
Biles said he wants to get the first two lanes open as quickly as possible, to get traffic onto it to the Suncoast Parkway.
That will provide another hurricane evacuation route, and will open up the west-central area of the county to within a “commutable distance” of downtown Tampa, Biles said.
It also would be good timing, in conjunction with a new $191 million expansion campus that Moffitt Cancer Center wants to create in Pasco County.
Moffitt recently announced it would be asking the state Legislature to increase Moffitt’s share of the state’s cigarette revenue from 4% to 10% to support an expansion of its facilities in Hillsborough County, and to provide for a new campus in Pasco County.
The project would allow Moffitt to meet future demand for cancer therapies, create a research park that would be a magnet for biotech partners, and expand its services in the Tampa Bay region, according to information provided by Moffitt.
Published September 25, 2019
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