Pasco County officials are pushing to open the Ridge Road extension to the Suncoast Parkway interchange, as soon as the road is ready.
But Pasco County Commissioner Jack Mariano said that Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise may want to delay the opening.
“They may not have the tolling equipment in place. They may hold back, opening the road,” Mariano told his colleagues, during the board’s Nov. 9 meeting.
“If they don’t have the toll stuff on the roads ready, I think you guys agree, we should just open the road. Let the people start traveling. It’s the people’s money that built it, one way or the other, anyway. Let’s get it going,” Mariano said.
Commissioner Mike Moore agreed, putting it this way: “We need to open this, in the first of December. If they want to continue with holding this up, I will be out there with an orange vest and a flag. And, I’m the last person they want to see on that road, directing traffic every day.”
County Administrator Dan Biles told the board there are efforts underway to persuade Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise to change its position.
“The road is on the verge of being ready for traffic. We expect sometime in the next 30 days, the road — to include the interchange at the Suncoast (Parkway) — to be ready for traffic,” Biles said.
That would extend Ridge Road from Moon Lake Road all of the way to the Suncoast Parkway interchange.
“The one thing holding up finishing it up is the tolling equipment on the north side of Ridge Road —not, on the south side, because there’s a gantry on the south between Ridge and (State Road) 54, that already exists, already tolls at $1.07 a passenger vehicle.
“That tolling equipment (on the north side) may not be in until sometime next spring,” Biles said.
“Right now, the tolling authority is saying, ‘Hey, we want to wait until that’s in, to open it.’”
But Biles said the county’s position is and has been: “No. The second we can put traffic on Ridge Road and the interchange, we need to put traffic on Ridge Road and the interchange.
“Once it’s ready, it should be opened,” Biles reiterated. “It’s an immediate traffic reliever.”
If discussions don’t resolve the issue, the board authorized Commission Chairman Ron Oakley to write a letter to the Turnpike Enterprise, and others that he and Biles identify, to try to get the road opened as soon as possible.
In a related note, Moore told his colleagues that he has requested Rep. Ardian Zika and State Sen. Ed Hooper to file a state appropriation request for $14 million to support phase two of the Ridge Road extension over to U.S. 41.
Both legislators have agreed to seek the funding, Moore said, which would speed completion of that segment.
“Hopefully, we’ll be hearing some good news, during the (legislative) session,” Moore said.
In other area roadwork news, the construction company Cone & Graham is expected in coming weeks to begin doing the completion work on a widening project on State Road 54, from Curley Road to Morris Bridge Road, according to an update from the District Seven office of the Florida Department of Transportation.
The construction company also will be doing work for Pasco County, at Eiland Boulevard, according to the information from FDOT.
Construction work on the widening of State Road 54 was halted by the previous construction company and the surety company is responsible for bringing the work to completion through a conclusion contractor.
Published Nov. 24, 2021