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Ridge Road four-laning project to start soon

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NEW PORT RICHEY - Drivers headed to Pasco-Hernando Community College West Campus and other destinations might not have noticed much difference along Ridge Road on Monday. But they may begin seeing construction crews in the months ahead as Pasco County officials gave the go-ahead to a contractor to begin widening a section of Ridge Road east of Little Road.The two-lane Ridge Road will become four lanes along the nearly three-mile stretch from Broad Street to Moon Lake Road. Pepper Contracting Services submitted the widening bid - slightly more than $22 million, county records show.The Tampa-based contractor has about 15 months, or 450 days, to finish the job. Weather delays or other unforeseen circumstances could add more than six months to the schedule, or 195 days, under terms of the contract.The pre-construction meeting with the contractor is scheduled for July 25, according to Deborah Bolduc, program administrator for the Pasco County Engineering Services Department.During the first six months of the project, crews will concentrate on some clearing and grubbing work, installation of silt screen and relocation of utilities.Residents should not confuse the Ridge Road widening project with the proposed Ridge Road extension, officials said. The wider Ridge will end at the Moon Lake Road intersection where the Ridge extension would begin.The Ridge extension project remains in regulatory limbo. Since the late 1990s, county leaders have envisioned the extension stretching east to Suncoast Parkway in the first phase, and then from the toll road to U.S. 41. Pasco officials' arguments for the extension as a hurricane evacuation route, however, have fallen on deaf ears with regulators. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has the job of reviewing the county's permit request for the project under the federal Clean Water Act, received many objections to the proposed extension. It would cross wetlands that serve as home to wildlife.

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