Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise has included a resurfacing project on the Suncoast Parkway, as part of its tentative work program for fiscal years 2023 through 2027.
Siaosi Fine, of the Turnpike Enterprise, briefed the Pasco Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) board about the sole Pasco County project included in that proposed plan, at the board’s Oct. 14 meeting.
The resurfacing work would be done on the Suncoast Parkway, from just south of the Hillsborough County and Pasco County line to a little bit north of State Road 52, Fine said.
The design funds are included in the tentative five-year work plan in fiscal year 2024 and the construction funds are included in the fiscal year 2025 plan. The total cost would be $23.1 million for work that includes milling and resurfacing, guard rail installation, and signing and pavement marking improvements, he said
Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey, who sits on the Pasco MPO board, inquired about funding for the two pedestrian/bicycle overpasses that are planned at State Road 54 and State Road 52, respectively, to connect to the Suncoast Trail.
Those projects are being funded by Pasco County, while overpasses in Hernando and Citrus counties are being paid for by the Turnpike, the commissioner said.
“It’s not fair,” Starkey said.
“Board members, citizens of Pasco County are paying for the bike/ped overpasses on (State Roads) 54 and 52, and the Turnpike is paying for the overpasses in Hernando County and Citrus County) who have a lot less traffic than us. I don’t understand how that happened,” she said. She added that she’d like to talk to someone at the Turnpike Enterprise about the possibility of it sharing those costs.
Starkey addressed her MPO board colleagues: “Guys, I really think we should elevate our voices on that,” adding that perhaps that can be done when they go to Tallahassee to address concerns.
“Why are other counties getting it paid for, and we have to pay for our own?” she said. “It bothers me.”
In another part of the meeting, Starkey reiterated her concerns about trail design, urging those who are planning trails to use an approach that allows trails to meander away from roads and to place them behind ponds or landscaping, to improve the experience for users and to make it safer.
In some cases, that might increase costs, she said. But it might not.
“There are ways to make the user experience better. You don’t have to buy more right of way, you just have to plan it as a user would like to use it,” Starkey said.
Pasco County Commissioner Christina Fitzpatrick agreed. She said trails should be farther back from roads, not butted up right next to them, to help keep users safe.
MPO Board Chairman Lance Smith, who serves on the Zephyrhills City Council, agreed that more thought needs to be given to trail design.
“I do want to say that I appreciate the commissioners’ input on the trails because I think this trail idea has evolved over the years,” Smith said.
“It used to be — well — no trails. Then, over the years, as an afterthought, let’s put in a trail. “Now, we’re thinking more on integrating it as part of the actual construction. I think it’s great to have a landscape architect in there and fight as hard as they can to create these nice spaces on the trail.
“It’s great to have a trail, but if there’s not a piece of shade on it, in August, I don’t know how many people will use it,” Smith said.
“And,” Starkey added, “an occasional bench?”
Published October 20, 2021