TAMPA - State Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad has formally rejected a proposal for a privately owned, elevated toll road across southern Pasco County.
“The department was unable to reach an agreement with International Infrastructure Partners, LLC on a framework of financing and various design concepts for the corridor that would be acceptable to all parties and address the concerns of the local community,” he said in a statement issued over the weekend. “In absence of this framework, advancing this project would not make any sense.”
IIP had formed a consortium with Spanish construction firm, OHL Infrastructure, and was negotiating to lease FDOT right-of-way in the State Road 54/56 corridor for the 33-mile toll road. If approved, the $2 billion project would have been the state’s first private toll road and would have linked U.S. 19 and U.S. 301.
The project garnered widespread opposition throughout Pasco County, and support for it among local elected officials waned. The death-blow came during a May 1 meeting between the bidders and FDOT, when consortium members told Prasad they couldn’t finance the project without a significant public investment.
“When I heard we got to put money in, I was shut off,” he said. “If that’s the case, then it’s probably better to hit the reset button.”
Prasad vowed to continue working with officials from the region to address their transportation needs, but said future improvements to S.R. 54 will go through a traditional “bottom up” approach.
The department has budgeted more than $95 million over the next five years for improvements to S.R. 54. Later this year, the department will spent $18 million to widen the segment between the Suncoast Parkway to west of U.S. 41 to six lanes. The department also plans to widen the road between Wesley Chapel and Zephyrhills - a $38 million project.
The county’s Metropolitan Planning Organization is still studying whether to include a four-lane elevated toll road on S.R. 54 as it goes through the yearlong process of updating Pasco’s Long Range Transportation Plan, which anticipates what traffic congestion will look like in the year 2040.