Concept art showing an elevated toll road along the State Road 54 and 56 corridor in Pasco County.
New Port Richey, Florida -- Should Pasco County continue with its concept of adding 33 miles of elevated toll lanes to connect U.S. 19 to Highway 301? It depends on who you ask.
Frank Montanino says, "This thing is going to be like an eyesore. We had them in New York -- they didn't seem to work there."
The question was raised at a county commission meeting on Tuesday afternoon.
For years, the county has looked into adding the elevated toll road along the State Road 54 and 56 corridor. Richard Gehring, Pasco County's Planning and Development administrator, says as soon as they started looking closer into the idea they received an unsolicited bid from a private company to do the work.
Then a few weeks ago, a group called the Urban Land Institute looked at the plans and thought the elevated corridor would be a bad idea so county commissioners put the brakes on the idea.
The Florida Department of Transportation and county administrators decided to bring up the issue up to the county commissioners to see if they need to rethink the elevated toll road idea.
During Tuesday's meeting, county administrators unanimously passed the resolution. Several commissioners say it's critical that they take a good look at the idea to build an elevated toll road similar to the Selmon Expressway in Tampa. They're concerned about development and growth in the area which means more cars and more traffic.
Gehring says it's part of the county's long-range transportation plan which they revisit every five years.
Keith Brackin is the co-owner and partner of Big Apple Bagels located at 23908 State Road 54 in Lutz.
"The growth out here has been unbelievable in the five years that we've been here," he says.
He has concerns over the idea of an elevated toll road right in front of his business.
"Being at an elevated highway would carry the customer on past the store."
He and another business owner who is located nearby hadn't even heard of the idea until 10 News told them.
"Maybe I could benefit from an off-ramp filtering down real close into this area and in this flow of traffic -- that would be a nice concession," Brackin says.
Meanwhile, county commissioners are concerned about Urban Land Institute's report that is critical of the idea. ULI officials say several other cities with the elevated toll roads are now replacing theirs. But Kathryn Starkey raised concerns that some of those locations were completely different. She said those areas were more urban and even waterfront areas too.
John Hagen, president and CEO of Pasco Economic Development Council, says, "I feel personally that they came to the right conclusion and it gives the information for the public and the commissioners to actually make the decision on whether to go forward with this idea."
Tuesday's vote does not mean the elevated toll lanes will be built, it's just means that the county is ready to move forward with ongoing studies about the idea. Gehring says one study has already been completed and a second one is currently underway. The first study cost about $750,000. He says the second one is going to cost about $250,000.
What do you think about the possibility of a toll road in Pasco? Comment below or on our Facebook page here.
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