The Ridge Road extension is still on the drawing board, waiting for a permit from the United States Army Corps of Engineers.
But, at their July meeting in Dade City, Pasco County commissioners took a step forward in the nearly 19-year process of qualifying for the coveted permit.
They updated a contract with NV5 Inc., and approved about $4.6 million toward the final design and construction plan of about 8 miles of roadway that will cut through the Serenova Preserve.
The first phase of the project, if approved, would extend Ridge Road from Moon Lake to the Suncoast Parkway. In a second phase, the road would extend from Suncoast to U.S. 41 across from Connerton Boulevard, in Land O’ Lakes.
Environmentalists oppose the project, which they say will harm wetlands, water quality and wildlife habitats. But, county officials place a high priority on the road extension as an east/west evacuation route during emergencies.
“It’s a long time coming,” said Pasco County Commissioner Jack Mariano. “I’m glad to see we have some good momentum on building this road.”
County officials estimate that a decision on the federal permit could be known by June 2018. A month earlier, they also believe the Southwest Florida Water Management District could issue its permit.
If permits are approved, construction is scheduled to begin in July 2018.
County officials were encouraged in April, when the Corps selected one of 17 proposed routes as “the least environmentally damaging practicable alternative.”
In recent months, lobbying efforts to win approval of the federal permit have included support from U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, Gov. Rick Scott, and the administration of President Donald Trump.
The Suncoast Sierra Club and grassroots activists with the Save the Serenova Preserve from the Road to Nowhere are organizing and gathering petition signatures to oppose the project.
The Corps of Engineers is waiting on additional information on construction and environmental impacts before making a decision.
Published July 19, 2017