|Pasco County, Florida — Pasco officials learned today how luck favors preparation.
An investment group, International Infrastructure Partners, LLC, has proposed to fund and construct an SR 54/56 elevated tollway across Pasco County from US 19 to US 301 using private funds. This facility would invest hundreds of millions of dollars into Pasco County and in effect complete the northern expressway loop that was never constructed in Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties.
The unsolicited proposal from International Infrastructure Partners, LLC was received earlier this week by the State Department of Transportation. However, the idea was hatched by Pasco County officials over a year ago who presented it to the Pasco Economic Development Council, Inc., where it received a positive response from Pasco business leaders. Pasco EDC encouraged the County to fund a feasibility study, which is currently underway.
“Ironically, County officials presented the idea for the elevated tollway to our board exactly one year ago on August 22, 2012,” said John Hagen, President/CEO of Pasco EDC. “It created quite a buzz in the business community.”
Subsequently, at an October 2012 County-sponsored conference in Wesley Chapel for developers, planners and public officials, County planning and transportation officials unveiled the concept, where it was viewed as a bold, imaginative initiative. County officials described a three year optimistic time frame to plan and begin execution of the project. Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad, who was in attendance, responded that the Department would expedite any proposals it received regarding the elevated tollway. He stated that under State law an unsolicited proposal could be turned around in a 60-day request-for-proposal process.
The new proposal triggers that state requirement, accelerates the county’s planning and puts Pasco County right in the crosshairs of regional economic development. It also provides a viable solution to a critical east-west regional transportation issue. The RFP released by the State of Florida ends in an award date of November 6, 2013 (although there would undoubtedly be subsequent negotiations after that date with the awardee to work out the details).
For five years, Pasco County and the Pasco Economic Development Council, Inc. have worked together with other organizations to implement a set of recommendations from the Urban Land Institute. These far reaching recommendations have included changing development codes, reducing the cost of commercial development, and dividing the County into distinct market areas.
One of these market areas—now called Gateway Crossings— follows the SR 54/56 corridor. The elevated tollway, if completed, would set the stage for bus rapid transit and urban-style development, which is the underlying vision of county’s plans for the market area.
In that vision, the pioneering development at Wiregrass Mall, as well as office complexes queued up for Raymond James and T. Rowe Price and hospitals recently completed at Wesley Chapel and Trinity would be part of a new urban tapestry stitched together by the elevated tollway. Now it could be a reality much sooner than originally anticipated.
“It is exciting to see a project of this magnitude advance toward fruition,” said Hagen. “Business owners have one more reason to move their companies to Tampa Bay and Pasco County.”
Pasco EDC is a non-profit organization that promotes economic development in Pasco County, Florida. Pasco EDC continues to be a strong partnership funded by corporate and public investors focused on the economic vitality of Pasco County.