Pasco County gets serious about expanding SR 54

6:57 PM, Feb 15, 2013   |    comments
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New Port Richey, Florida -- It's looking more and more like the expansion of State Road 54 in Pasco County is no longer a question of will it happen, but when? It's also looking like any expansion will involve some type of toll.

"Something has to be done," Pasco County Commissioner Henry Wilson said on Friday.

A recently completed study by consultants RS&H suggests elevated toll lanes along 54 may be the answer.

"Am I fond of it? Not really, but I'm going into it with an open mind saying you know what, something's got to be done and we've got to make sure it's done the right way."

Wilson added simply adding more surface lanes won't solve the problem.

"Some of the transportation plans have it going 19 lanes wide and that's not feasible as we all know."

While RS&H's report outlines a number of options including expanding 54 from U.S. 19 all the way east to 301, officials 10 News contacted say a smaller project is more likely.

Pasco County Growth Management Administrator Richard Gehring says expanding 54 between the Suncoast Parkway and I-75 will probably be the direction officials head. He says the project could be done in two phases, the first being from I-75 west to 41, followed by expanding 41 to the Suncoast Parkway.

The cost of these two phases combined could be less than $600 million he said. But that's if the work is done in the next few years.

"There's a window to do this now because the construction prices and the interest rates are the lowest they are ever going to be," Gehring said.

Yet taxpayers shouldn't worry about footing the bill for the project Gehring said because the design and construction will be paid for by private investors.

"The concept of a toll facility or managed lanes creates a revenue stream, that revenue stream attracts private investment."

Tolls on an elevated road could range from 14 to 21 cents per mile, Gehring added.

Next month, the Pasco County Board of Commissioners will likely vote to fund another larger study on the expansion of 54. The study will take about six months to complete.

Gehring believes construction on expanding the road could begin in less than five years.

As many as 120,000 vehicles travel on 54 each weekday.

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