It was on life support as early as last week, but now the Florida Department of Transportation says an unsolicited proposal from a private group of companies wanting to build an elevated toll road along the State Road 54/56 corridor is now officially dead.
“The department was unable to reach an agreement with International Infrastructure Partners LLC on a framework of financing and various design concepts for the corridor that would be acceptable to all parties and address the concerns of the local community,” FDOT secretary Ananth Prasad, said in a release. “In absence of this framework, advancing this project would not make any sense.”
Pasco Fiasco, a group of home and business owners along that 33-mile corridor who opposed the project, celebrated the decision, and said they are postponing a planned rally at Sunlake High School next week that was intended to build even more opposition to the project. Organizers told The Laker/Lutz News last week that they could still hold the rally either way, because a similar public project could be pushed forward as part of the county’s long-range transportation plan.
While FDOT and Pasco County officials have said future growth will require some sort of expansion of the corridor that connects Zephyrhills at U.S. 301 and New Port Richey at U.S. 19, the plan to build the elevated toll road came unsolicited last year by a construction group known for similar projects around the world.
The project itself had been chipped away over the last few months, as public sentiment against it grew — including from Pasco commissioners Henry Wilson and Jack Mariano. However, it went into a tailspin last week when Prasad admitted that discussions on how the project would be built started to fall apart when the developers, who at this point said they would raise the estimated $2.2 billion construction cost privately, started asking for public money to help fund it.
FDOT continues to work on other projects in the area as part of its five-year plan, Prasad said, including the widening of State Road 54 from the Suncoast Parkway to U.S. 41, as well as from Curley Road to Morris Bridge Road. It also will continue work toward starting the new State Road 56 leg from Meadow Point Boulevard to U.S. 301.