Gerald Stanley wants to build the first private toll road in the state. And he wants to build it across Pasco County.
Stanley, a retired road builder from Lutz who is a partner with International Infrastructure Partners LLC, submitted an unsolicited proposal June 11 to the state Department of Transportation proposing a toll road be built along the SR 54/SR 56 corridor. That would link Wesley Chapel to New Port Richey, with the possible addition of Wesley Chapel to US 301 in Zephyrhills.
The partnership proposes to lease the right-of-way from the state and both build and operate a 33-mile toll road. Much of the road would be elevated, but portions would be at ground level where necessary. It would be constructed in phases, with the first leg planned for SR 54/56 from Bruce B. Downs Boulevard to the Suncoast Parkway.
The second phase would go from the Suncoast Parkway to US 19 in New Port Richey. A possible third phase would extend the road from Bruce B. Downs to Zephyrhills. It’s possible, however, that phases one and two would be combined immediately for cost efficiency.
Stanley touted the benefits of the proposed project in a letter addressed to Anath Prasad, the secretary of the state roads department.
“This will be the first of its kind, privately funded, designed, built, operated and maintained elevated expressway in the state of Florida,” Stanley wrote. “It will create thousands of jobs for Floridians, further economic development in Pasco County, improve traffic flow, and promote use of existing and future transportation facilities.”
International Infrastructure Partners was formed specifically to manage the project and consists of engineers, accountants and financial professionals, according to Stanley’s proposal.
The construction would be done by PCL, a company that is currently working on the Interstate 4 connector project. The company also has completed work for the toll-funded Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway.
Guggenheim Securities LLC would be the capital partner for the project, Stanley said, soliciting investments through a fund called “FL54Xpressway.”
Kris Carson, spokeswoman for District 7 of the DOT, said it is too early to tell if any project like this would come to fruition.
“It could be that nothing ever happens,” Carson said. “There are a lot of questions to be answered.”
In response to Stanley’s proposal, the state roads department issued a request for proposals to encourage a competitive process, and set a date of Oct. 23 for opening those proposals.
John Hagen, president and CEO of the Pasco Economic Development Council Inc., said when the idea of a toll road was initially raised, there were questions about who would pay for it, and its financial feasibility.
The fact that a private group has stepped forward and is willing to pay for it, gives legitimacy to the concept, he said.
Like Carson, Hagan said it is too early to tell if a project will materialize.
“There are a lot of technical questions that need to be answered,” Hagan said.
But if a toll road is built, it will provide an additional transportation option that will allow traffic to move quickly across the county on a toll road, while local traffic uses the surface streets, the economic development expert said.
Steps must be taken to increase traffic capacity, Hagan said. Otherwise, “eventually SR 54/SR 56 will just become a parking lot.”
Jeff Miller, a real estate agent and resident of Wesley Chapel, said he welcomes this type of project. He sees it as a way for people, like himself, to get to New Port Richey and Pinellas County much more quickly than is possible now.
“It’s not a done deal. We’re all trying to determine if it’s feasible,” Stanley said. “If it’s not profitable, it won’t be built.”
If the project is done, however, it will employ hundreds of construction workers and will bring more industry to Pasco County.
It will also help prevent gridlock, as Pasco continues to grow, said Stanley, who has been a part of the Florida Transportation Builders Association for 35 years, and was the group’s president in 2005-06.
“We’re looking to the future,” he said.
In its request for proposals, the state DOT requires those interested in pursuing a private toll road to:
–Obtain any required approvals from federal regulatory agencies to operate a toll facility in this corridor;
–Identify and comply with existing federal, state, and local regulatory agency requirements;
–Identify and address how the proposer plans to design, construct, operate and maintain a toll facility in Pasco County;
–Identify and address existing infrastructure and utility conflicts, and provide for resolution of such infrastructure and utility conflicts;
–Address future build-outs of infrastructure in the corridor(s) that may be impacted by or impact the toll road, and future phases of the toll road;
–Identify and address any zoning or land development codes of any affected local government.
The submitter must also demonstrate its ability to further economic development in the region and state, protect the environment, create temporary and permanent jobs in Florida, improve transportation efficiency and otherwise benefit citizens and the state.
The state would not provide any funding for the project, according to the RFP.
A decision on awarding the project would occur on Nov. 6, according to the RFP.