Jim Tucker knows as much about the state’s plans for the Suncoast Parkway at Pine Ridge as anyone and even he is in the dark.

Two Citrus County commissioners who sit on task force groups designed to assist the state on Suncoast extension projects say they haven’t heard a word either about the parkway’s 3-mile extension from State Road 44 to C.R. 486.

Pine Ridge parkway meeting

 Pine Ridge residents listen in April as Suncoast 2 project manager Steve Soldati explains the process for the potential extension of the parkway between S.R. 44 and C.R. 486 near the Pine Ridge entrance. More than 300 people attended the meeting. 

And the Florida Department of Transportation isn’t saying much either. FDOT cancelled a planned open house in September, saying only that it is studying design alternatives. The meeting was not rescheduled.

The 44 to 486 extension has taken on many looks the last two years, and with state officials actively looking at extending the parkway to Interstate 10 or the Georgia border, it’s unknown what the extension will look like or even if it will happen at all.

Ralph Massullo

State Rep. Ralph Massullo.

State Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto, said FDOT may use the C.R. 486 leg as the first phase in moving the Suncoast north.

“There would be a benefit to having a temporary terminus at 486,” Massullo said. “It would remove a lot of traffic off 44 at least temporarily until they’re able to build the next section of the Suncoast.”

To Tucker, a member of the Pine Ridge Property Owners Association Board of Directors, the issue is not so much whether there’s an interchange or terminus at C.R. 486, but where.

Preliminary state maps showed most potential routes landing at the Pine Ridge entrance doorstep. The association is asking the state to move it either to the west or east to keep Pine Ridge from becoming a thoroughfare with parkway traffic, and Massullo said he thinks that’s the approach FDOT will take.

“I hope that’s what they’re thinking,” Tucker said.

•••

Early on, the only relationship between the Suncoast Parkway and C.R. 486 was an overpass.

Original plans for what is known as Suncoast 2 had it moving north through Citrus County from U.S. 98, to U.S. 19 at Red Level. It had three interchanges — Cardinal Street, S.R. 44 and C.R. 495 (Citrus Avenue).

While no money was set aside for construction, the state nonetheless put a total stop to the Suncoast 2 plans in 2009 due to the economic downturn. Then-Gov. Rick Scott revitalized the plans in 2015 with an ambitious goal of linking the parkway to Jacksonville, creating a route between Northeast Florida and Tampa Bay, while also serving as a traffic reliever to congested I-75. The first leg would be completing the parkway between U.S. 98 and S.R. 44 in Lecanto.

In 2016, Citrus County commissioners asked the state to consider moving the parkway 3 miles farther to C.R. 486. The stated reason at the time was the concern that C.R. 491 widening between S.R. 44 and C.R. 486 would not be completed, and ending the parkway at S.R. 44 would create a traffic mess on C.R. 491.

In the meantime, the state’s attempts to create a toll road to relieve freeway traffic failed. A task force recommended expanding current roads before building a new one, and proposals for a so-called Coastal Connector exploded in public outcry over the lands that would be spoiled by a toll road.

Citrus County commissioners continued to push for the C.R. 486 extension, but now for a different reason. C.R. 491 was no longer an issue because the county believed it would have the roadway widened close to the time the parkway was finished to S.R. 44. Commissioners instead urged the C.R. 486 extension in order to keep the road project continuing north and out of Citrus County.

Now even that concern is being addressed. The Legislature approved $45 million to study three toll roads, including two associated with the Suncoast Parkway, and pledged funds to have the roads built in the next 10 years.

Commissioners say they are confident of plans to keep the Suncoast heading north.

Scott Carnahan mug

County Commissioner Scott Carnahan.

Commissioner Scott Carnahan said he doesn’t think the state will build a permanent exit.

“The Pine Ridge people are going to be OK,” he said. “There will not be an exit there.”

Massullo said he believes the state is looking to bring the interchange west of the Pine Ridge entrance, closer to the Duke Energy transmission line, with the idea of sending it farther north to U.S. 19 near Red Level.

He said his preference is for the state to keep the interchange at C.R. 486 even when it continues the project northward. Sending motorists from the parkway to I-75 is easier from C.R. 486 than S.R. 44, he said.

“486 is a much better road to take that traffic eastward,” he said.

jeff kinnard mug 0318

Citrus County Commissioner Jeff Kinnard.

Commission Chairman Jeff Kinnard said he realizes some Pine Ridge residents are antsy over the lack of detail from the state about the C.R. 486 segment of the parkway, but he urged patience in the wake of the Suncoast task forces, which will take a year to complete.

“There are several large pieces still moving,” he said. “They’re trying to figure out exactly how all this is going to come together.”

 

Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or mwright@chronicleonline.com.

(8) comments

LDouglas

On another note, I'm a little confused and hope someone can tell me. Is the "Northern Turnpike Connector task force" meeting the one where they'll discuss the plans of how it will get from Lecanto north to Red Level- or beyond?



Or is it the "Suncoast Connector task force" meeting?

CitrusCo Citizen

I have no idea, LDouglas. Just, pleast go to the meeting and let us know what they're up to. It appears that they keep "rebranding" it whenever We the People protest so that they can try to fool us by appearing to abandon the project and start a new and better one. But it's still "old wine in new bottles". The latest ruse has been "Coastal Connector" to "Suncoast Connector" to "Suncoast Parkway"" to Nothern Turnpike" with several other names in between. They use names with positive connotations like "parkway" , "connector" and "corridor" instead of "Tollroad" and "Highway" which is exactly what they are, but that have negative connotations. Another obvious one was the "Sabal Trail" which was the disgusie for the more accurate descriptive "Sabal Natural Gas Fracked Methane Pipeline"! Very clever marketing, just like the branding found in the tobacco companies (e.g. Virginia Slims, or "The Marlboro Man". Problem for them is--this isn't our first rodeo and we weren't born yesterday!

LDouglas

Thanks for both of your replies. The cynic in me has already figured they want to keep us in the dark to prevent protest. Ugh.

LDouglas

From the article: "Original plans for what is known as Suncoast 2 had it moving north through Citrus County from U.S. 98, to U.S. 19 at Red Level. It had three interchanges — Cardinal Street, S.R. 44 and C.R. 495 (Citrus Avenue)."



Are there any maps to show how it "might" go from where it ends now at Lecanto (or 486) and end up at Red Level?

CitrusCo Citizen

LDouglas. Good question. As far as I know no maps have been released to the public--it's kept under wraps until construction starts so that there will be no time for the public to realize what is happening. That is unfair to property owners who are "in the way" of construction--they won't be informed until they get their evil eminent domain letters in the mail and there's no time left to try to voice objections. (If they're "snowbirds" then they'll get the letters three weeks later after their Florida mail is forwarded and if they're on vacation, oh well. ) Home owners in Pine Ridge, Citrus Springs and several other farms, trailer parks, etc. are very very stressed out and have been for more than a year or two. Everyone else is in the dark, too, and wondering what you are.

RobertRoscow

I just wish Janet Masaoy, Teddi and Jim Bierly, Kathy Faye Chetoka, and John Grannan were alive to see this train wreck. Obviously there is no PD&E Study for what they are building now as they don’t know where it’s going to end and it doesn’t comply with the state statute, the BOCC is clueless, and the state legislature and new governor just did away with really PD&E studies as they eliminated the “No Build” option. But they have passed a law to build 3 toll roads instead based on no plans, studies, or needs analysis to the tune of $10 Billion or now they think maybe $20 Billion. Yes those are B’s not M’s.

I can’t wait for Georgia to weigh in once they see this fiasco is going to destroy their communities, agribusiness, and road system and most of all $$$$$. I have talked to them and they are waiting but based on this article it will be a long wait. No one can even get the cost right for what they are building now let alone to la la land. And by the way quit calling it a 4 lane highway. It is planned for 8 and approved already by SWFWMD for 8. I would think you would know what you were actually building now but obviously do not if you don’t know the cost or ultimate capacity. As an architect, I would have been fired. Maybe the voters in Florida should consider that as an option.

CitrusCo Citizen

The Suncoast 1 from Veteran's Expressway is always empty. The Suncoast 2 will be empty. 19 heading north after Crystal River is empty (and it's free). The Suncoast 3 will be empty. Why? Nobody, especially commercial truckers, wants to pay the tools. It's about $13 round trip from Citrus County to TPA airport. That's $65 for a 5 day work week. Somebody please explain to me why we need to pay higher taxes for yet another empty highway/tollroad. Just widen 19, widen 75, and have a plan for more southbound lanes to be repurposed to handle extra traffic during a hurricane evacuation (people are usually heading north out of south Florida. Also a good wide bypass around Ocala and Gainesville would help to reduce the traffic jams on 75 in those areas. Improving what we already have would save huge amounts of money as well as the environment, and people's homes and rural communities. But no--that would be too simple and too cheap. Galvano's vanity project/money making scheme is simply wrong for Floridians.

CitrusCo Citizen

Correction: Nobody . . . wants to pay the tolls . . . .

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