Suncoast Parkway construction

U.S. 98 runs under two new bridges of the Suncoast Parkway in this photo taken from the air in June 2020.

The $134 million Suncoast Parkway extension project will reach a major milestone at the end of July when work crews finish the final bridge at Grover Cleveland Boulevard.

When this happens, all 15 bridges along the route from U.S. 98 to State Road 44 will be complete, Florida’s Turnpike spokeswoman Stephanie Eisenberg said.

The bridge at County Road 490 (Homosassa Trail) was the first to open to traffic on this project. The U.S. 98 intersection is also taking shape, as three of the new ramps are being built. Most of the drainage for that area is now in place, Eisenberg said.

“Regarding the Cardinal Street Interchange, the bridge is completed, and the contractor is working on the roadway,” she said. “We are anticipating temporarily switching westbound traffic onto West Cardinal Street in about two months.”

At that time, eastbound lanes will remain on the current temporary diversion road. The full interchange at West Cardinal and its ramps are expected to be completed next year.

Meanwhile, the project extending the parkway 13 miles into Citrus County is more than 60% complete. It started in February 2018 and is on-time for estimated completion in 2022, Eisenberg said.

Work on the two State Road 44 ramps is continuing. The contractor will be working through the rest of the summer and in the fall on the embankments there.

For more information about the project, visit http://www.floridasturnpike.com/suncoast2.html

TaxWatch opposition

Meanwhile, Tallahassee-based Florida TaxWatch is raising questions about the cost and need for a project that would extend the Suncoast Parkway from Citrus County to Jefferson County at the northern end of the state.

In a report released Monday, July 20, TaxWatch called the proposed 150-mile Suncoast Connector, a “risky project with a significant price tag and little transportation need.”

TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro, in a news release, urged “further analysis of the costs, benefits, and practicality of the Suncoast Connector, especially now that our state is facing unprecedented revenue shortfalls due to COVID-19.”

The project was approved by the Legislature in 2019 along with an extension of the Florida Turnpike from Wildwood to connect with the Suncoast Parkway and the construction of a new multi-use corridor, including a toll road, from Polk County to Collier County. The legislation, a priority of Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, eventually dedicates up to $101.7 million a year to the roads.

Contact Chronicle reporter Michael D. Bates at 352-563-3205 or mbates@chronicleonline.com.