Pasco County officials were awaiting word early this week on the fate of a proposed $14 million appropriation to help cover the costs of the completion of the Ridge Road extension.
State lawmakers were set to have their final vote on the budget on March 14, which was after The Laker/Lutz News went to press.
Even if the appropriation was approved, Gov. Ron DeSantis has until June 30 to act on the budget, which becomes official on July 1.
The one-time $14 million appropriation is being sought to help pay for the final phase of the Ridge Road extension, which ultimately creates a connection between Moon Lake Road, in New Port Richey to U.S. 41, in Land O’ Lakes.
Pasco officials have lobbied for the state spending. They say Ridge Road provides a needed hurricane evacuation route for coastal residents. They also tout the project’s ability to improve mobility within the county, by creating another east-west traffic corridor, in addition to state roads 52 and 54.
Plus, the project, which is due for completion in 2025, is expected to have a positive impact on economic development.
It is viewed as a critical piece of infrastructure to support the development of Moffitt Cancer Center’s planned 775-acre acre in Central Pasco.
Besides awaiting word on the appropriation, Pasco County officials are pushing for an agreement with Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise, to allow traffic to head northbound from Ridge Road to the Suncoast Parkway.
The county board had authorized County Administrator Dan Biles to pursue an agreement that would allow the county to temporarily pay for tolls on the Suncoast Parkway — to accommodate the complete opening of the Ridge Road extension at that interchange.
The agreement is needed because Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise must collect tolls for users on the toll road.
But Commissioner Mike Moore and Biles reported to the board that no progress had been made because the county had not heard back from Turnpike Enterprise.
With that, the county board voted to authorize a letter to be sent to the governor, seeking prompt action.
Meanwhile, Commission Chairwoman Kathryn Starkey reached out to David Gwynn, secretary of the District 7 office of the Florida Department of Transportation.
Gwynn reached out to an official at Turnpike Enterprise, and he was assured that action would be taken later that day or the next day.
Once that agreement is reached, the interchange is expected to be fully opened within a week, according to county staff.
In another action on March 8, the county board approved a change order to the professional services agreement with NV5 Inc., in the amount of amount of $701,994.70 for fiscal year 2022, to provide additional design, permitting, utility coordination, and bid services for Phase 2b of the Ridge Road extension, from Sunlake Boulevard to U.S. 41.
Details of the change order were spelled out in the board’s agenda packet. The item was approved as part of the board’s consent agenda, meaning there was no public comment and it was approved with other agenda items, in a single action.
Approval of the change order will result in a cumulative subtotal amount of $1,391,724.70 for Phase 2b of the project and a cumulative total amount of $16,143,847.99 for all phases of the Ridge Road extension, from Moon Lake to U.S. 41.
On Dec. 8, 2020, the board approved a change order with NV5 for design services and CSX coordination for the Ridge Road Extension Phase 2b project.
The design services were limited to roadway plans up to 60% completion and structural plans up to 90%, which was the minimum necessary for the coordination with CSX.
The change order was awarded for the not-to-exceed amount of $689,730 for FY 2021.
The change order approved on March 8 will add funds to complete the design of Ridge Road Extension Phase 2b.
That includes the development of signing and marking plans, signalization plans, landscaping plans, completion of roadway plans, drainage plans and permitting, and utility coordination. The change also adds a time extension of 150 days from Oct. 8, 2022 to March 7, 2023.
Published March 13, 2022
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