PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — After running through millions of dollars of your tax money, Pasco’s proposed Ridge Road Extension, also known as the “road to nowhere,” now runs through the Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee all the way to the White House, all without so much as an an inch of pavement for the movement of cars and trucks.
Project backers hope political pressure from Governor Scott and President Donald Trump is just what they need to build that eight mile long hurricane evacuation road between Moon Lake Road in New Port Richey and U.S 41 in Connerton after 19 years of failed attempts to win approval from the Army Corps of Engineers.
“I think we are very close,” Pasco County Administrator Michele Baker said. “I think we are at the end.”
One way or another, let’s hope so. Pasco leaders have spent 19 years of their time and at least $15 million of your money pushing this third east to west roadway that would essentially provide a third evacuation route from the Pasco Coast Midway between State Road 52 and State Road 54 during a hurricane threat.
But environmentalists from the Audubon Society, Sierra Club and other groups decry the roadway as a betrayal of trust when county leaders set aside the Serenova wetlands preserve years ago in order to gain permission to destroy wetlands crossed by the Suncoast Parkway.
“How is something in preservation for perpetuity if you can put a road through it,” said Clay Colson who works with a group called Citizens for Sanity. “We’ve spent 19 years formulating a record that will allow us to go to court and challenge any permit that’s issued over this.”
Whatever merits either side has in their arguments, there are now some much bigger players involved in this controversy. Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R) of Tarpon Springs has been clamoring for months for construction of the roadway and now Governor Rick Scott has sent a letter to his political ally President Trump asking the President to place this project on his infrastructure priority list — essentially moving it to the front of the line when it comes to Army Corps consideration for approval.
Tonight at 5:30, our You Paid For It investigation takes a closer look at this high-stakes gambit that political leaders are playing with your money. The Ridge Road Extension may eventually save lives during storms, but so far it’s done nothing but spend your money.
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