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Change coming

OPINION OF THE SUNCOAST NEWS
Published:   |   Updated: January 29, 2014 at 10:07 AM

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When the Florida Department of Transportation agreed to accept a bid from a private group that wants to build an elevated toll road from U.S. 19 to the Wesley Chapel area along the State Road 54-56 corridor, many people began asking questions. That is as it should be. Any project of this sort, even one financed with private funds, requires careful scrutiny.

One of the main objections is the elevated toll road will cause big changes across southern Pasco County. Indeed, the toll road would be part of big changes for the area. Unless there is another real estate collapse anytime soon, however, big changes are coming to southern Pasco anyway. As Pasco Growth Management Administrator Richard Gehring noted at an Odessa-area town hall meeting called by Commissioner Kathryn Starkey, long-time ranch lands along the S.R. 54-56 corridor are slated to be turned into major residential-commercial developments. A lot of people and businesses and the traffic they generate are coming.

That leaves us with the question of what is the best way to handle that traffic. Gehring told the large crowd at last week's town hall that some portions of the S.R.54-56 corridor would have to have a total of 20 ground-level lanes to handle the traffic without the above-ground toll road. A photo of a 20-lane highway Gehring showed produced gasps from many in the audience.

The elevated toll road idea may not prove economically viable, or might fail to pass regulatory muster and never get off the drawing board. The major change it is meant to address, however, will almost certainly happen.

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