A portion of the Ridge Road extension has finally opened up — after some two decades in the making.
This new 4.2-mile, uninterrupted section of roadway runs from Moon Lake to the Suncoast Parkway — offering an east-west thoroughfare in the county.
Pasco County officials hosted a media-only availability and “drive the road” event on Dec. 22 in New Port Richey, for Phase One of the long-awaited roadway project.
Two of the four lanes were expected to open in the days following the special media gathering.
Various reporters and photographers had a chance to speak with county officials who’ve been instrumental in the road’s construction; news crews were escorted onto the roadway in county vehicles, as the location remains an active construction zone.
Pasco County Commission Vice Chair Jack Mariano touted the road’s first phase, and eventual build out, in an interview with The Laker/Lutz News.
“I am so delighted to see the Ridge Road extension getting ready to be opened up,” he said. “It’s been such a long time coming.”
The other two lanes of the 4.2-mile segment — from Town Center Road to Suncoast Parkway — are anticipated to be finished by fall 2022.
Meanwhile, the second leg of the extension, which is slated for completion in 2025, will extend Ridge Road to U.S. 41 in Land O’ Lakes.
Total construction cost of the entire project is nearly $161 million, with over $151 million in project county funding.
Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore recently announced that he had asked State Rep. Ardian Zika and State Sen. Ed Hooper to sponsor legislation seeking $14 million for the project, adding they both have agreed to do so.
The completion date for the second leg might be accelerated, if the Florida Legislature provides additional funding for the project.
County officials have pushed for the extension for decades, justifying the need for it to provide an additional east-west hurricane evacuation route.
The 9-mile extension, once completed to U.S. 41, also will relieve traffic on State Road 52 and State Road 54, the only two through east-west roads that carry traffic across the county.
“It’s going to alleviate on (State Road) 54 and (State Road) 52,” Mariano said. “It’s going to provide that hurricane evacuation route that’s so desperately needed, not only for Pasco County, but for Pinellas County, as well.”
He added, “The amount of time it saves, is about six hours for the evacuation, so it just makes our people that much safer and our community that much stronger.
The extension also will support the area’s burgeoning growth.
A huge development known as the Angeline community will be rising on thousands of acres, south of State Road 52 and west of U.S. 41.
The future growth includes a 775-acre Pasco campus planned by Moffitt Cancer Center, near the Ridge Road and Suncoast Parkway interchange.
Moffitt’s campus is expected to become a magnet for life sciences research.
The county’s elected leaders and economic development experts also expect Moffitt’s development to have a transformative effect on the area’s future development and to generate thousands of jobs.
Said Mariano, “With Moffitt coming in, it’s going to be a great boost for the economy, and allow easy access for west Pasco residents who want to work there, and back and forth.”
Published January 05, 2022