Pasco County is set to receive a nearly $23 million state loan after state and local officials stitched together a deal for a four-lane extension of State Road 56 from Wiregrass Ranch to Zephyrhills.
The project previously had been intended to build two lanes from Meadow Pointe Boulevard in Wiregrass Ranch to U.S. 301 in Zephyrhills.
Converting it to a four-lane project will boost the estimated $35 million price tag to about $65 million, including the loan plus interest.
Loan proceeds from the State Infrastructure Bank could be available as soon as April. Construction is expected to start by fall of this year. Completion is expected in 2019, and repayments of the loan would start shortly thereafter.
The project is expected to improve access to Interstate 75 and southeast Pasco, and spur new development in and around Zephyrhills, and its airport. Residents and officials in Zephyrhills have long lobbied for four lanes, arguing that a two-lane road was a major roadblock to redevelopment.
“It’s a major, major public/private partnership,” said Steve Spina, Zephyrhills’ city manager. “It will be an economic boost for the area.”
Pasco County commissioners, on Jan. 12, approved a series of agreements with the Florida Department of Transportation, four developer/landowners, the Cone & Graham construction company and the city of Zephyrhills.
The agreements detail a repayment schedule that allows the county to collect funds from developers and landowners along the corridor through mobility surcharge fees, or special assessments if needed.
“We will facilitate a lot of regional benefits,” said Richard Gehring, the county’s strategic policy administrator. “This will definitely benefit all of our (traffic) circulations.”
Prior to the commissioners’ meeting in Dade City, negotiations had hit a few snags, largely around how to structure the loan’s repayment and who would be liable for cost overruns.
State transportation officials agreed to extend the department’s contract with Cone & Graham, the contractor hired for the initial two lanes. The contractor would cover cost overruns but, in the event of a default, the county and developers would be liable.
Most of the road construction runs through Two Rivers Ranch, and its developers will pay almost $15 million in mobility surcharge fees. River Landing and Wyndfields will yield fees of about $6.8 million and $4.2 million, respectively.
Developers of a fourth community – Wesley Chapel Lakes – had an existing agreement in place, not taking into account additional construction, and will contribute about $2.7 million.
The county would pay most of a potential shortfall of about $1.5 million, with Zephyrhills contributing about $150,000 of that total.
In addition, plans to build a district park in Wesley Chapel Lakes will be abandoned. Because of wetlands, the site was too small, said David Goldstein, Pasco County’s chief assistant county attorney.
Instead, the developer of River Landing will provide parkland co-located with River Landing High School.
“This is going to be a win-win for the school district and the road project,” Goldstein said.
Published January 20, 2016