On Wednesday, the Florida Department of Transportation accepted a bid from a private consortium that wants to build Florida’s first toll road fully financed with private money. The elevated expressway would run from U.S. 19 in Holiday to Bruce B. Downs Boulevard in the Wesley Chapel area. Gerald Stanley, the Lutz-area engineer who dreamed up what is being called the FL 54 Xpress, said the project has “cleared the first hurdle.” There will, however, be many more barriers to surmount before the toll road construction project could begin.
FL 54 Xpress does have support. In addition to FDOT’s acceptance of the bid from Stanley and the international construction group OHL, the project has the endorsement of the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority, which has declared the 33-mile-long toll road one of its top priorities. Pasco County went wobbly for a bit after the Urban Land Institute questioned the project, saying elevated roads of this sort were being torn down in other parts of the country. Now, however, county commissioners seem to be back on board.
On the other hand, keep in mind the seemingly endless years Pasco County’s plans to construct a simple eight-mile link between the current eastern end of Ridge Road to the Suncoast Parkway toll road have spent in regulatory limbo. Although the FL 54 Xpress is supposed to run down the existing State Road 54-56 corridor, expect environmental and managed-growth advocacy groups to raise the usual objections. In addition, acquiring additional rights of way for the expressway could prove tricky.
Don’t make plans to take the FL 54 Xpress anytime soon.