Not all paths lead to Pine Ridge, but three of them do.
Preliminary maps drawn in 2016 by the Florida Department of Transportation that extend the Suncoast Parkway from State Road 44 to County Road 486 show four potential interchange ideas.
Three of them land the parkway right at the doorstep of Pine Ridge Boulevard. A fourth proposal has the interchange a bit to the east near LKQ Crystal River, formerly known as Damron’s.
FDOT officials say the maps are not a done deal; indeed, each map includes in bright red, “PRELIMINARY -- SUBJECT TO CHANGE.”
The state is about to undergo a study that will provide a more specific route and interchange proposal for the S.R. 44-C.R. 486 route, FDOT spokeswoman Kim Poulton said in an email to the Chronicle.
Still, the maps are the only details thus far of what state transportation officials may have in mind for C.R. 486.
It’s enough to have some folks in Pine Ridge nervous, such as property owners association board member Jim Tucker.
“Those are the cheapest way to do it,” Tucker said. “There’s already an intersection, already a traffic light.”
But Tucker, who received copies of the same maps a year ago and has them available to Pine Ridge residents, said the county commission should step in to ensure the community isn’t damaged by the roadway extension.
“I don’t care if the entrance goes on the highway there, just push the exit out a ways,” he said.
FDOT is building the additional 3 miles north of State Road 44, at an estimated cost of $86.6 million, at the county commission’s request.
The original Suncoast 2 route from U.S. 98 to U.S. 19 in Crystal River had an overpass at C.R. 486 but not an exit. The county asked that the roadway be extended to C.R. 486, at first because of concerns that C.R. 491 couldn’t handle additional parkway traffic, and then to ensure that the parkway’s route would continue north in some fashion so that it won’t end in the county.
Commissioners say they see no need to get involved in the Pine Ridge Boulevard issue until it becomes one. And they won’t know that, they said, until the FDOT has plans in place.
“It’s a hypothetical problem at this juncture,” board Chairman Jeff Kinnard said.
The 2016 maps that Tucker received from FDOT are the same ones the Chronicle obtained on Jan. 7 through a public records request. They are not on the state Suncoast 2 website, and County Administrator Randy Oliver said the county does not possess them, either.
Poulton said the website, floridasturnpike.com/suncoast2, will be updated this year to include information about the extension to C.R. 486.
Commissioner Brian Coleman said the county should encourage the state to design an interchange that has little direct impact on Pine Ridge as possible.
“I would think we would have some say into that,” he said.
For example, he said that all exiting traffic from the parkway heading east should avoid the Pine Ridge intersection altogether, similar as how the Suncoast Parkway now ends at U.S. 98, with right turns merging onto U.S. 98 and left turns intersecting with the highway.
Tucker said though that would help, it it would still bring some turnpike traffic directly in line with Pine Ridge.
In a community of 5,000 people, with 29 miles of equestrian trails that crisscross Pine Ridge Boulevard at five points, inviting turnpike traffic seems like potential disaster, he said.
Tucker is no stranger to road projects.
Now retired, he served as vice president of business services for the University of Cincinnati and Drexel University, overseeing tens of millions of dollars worth of construction, real estate and road projects.
Tucker said he did a Google Earth search of every interchange on the Florida turnpike system, and none of them end directly opposite a community entrance.
Kinnard acknowledged the board’s biggest goal is seeing the parkway move forward through Citrus County, either to U.S. 19 as originally planned or another route.
“The board’s position is to interfere as least as possible in the process, but get DOT to keep pushing this thing forward,” he said. “I completely understand there are some residents of Pine Ridge who don’t want this to happen. There’s also residents in Pine Ridge who do want this to happen.”