Florida turnpike officials are planning to bid out construction of the Suncoast Parkway 2 next year, bringing the toll road in to State Road 44 in Citrus County three years later.

Citrus County Administrator Randy Oliver said Florida turnpike officials recently mapped out a series of plans for county representatives that show an aggressive construction schedule.

County Public Works Director Jeff Rogers said the state is eager to study a major transportation corridor connecting Tampa to Jacksonville. 

Taking the Suncoast 13 miles from where it now ends at U.S. 98 in northern Hernando County to S.R. 44 in Lecanto is the first step.

Gov. Rick Scott placed $149 million in his proposed budget for right of way and design work for the parkway’s extension to S.R. 44. There is no construction money in the budget. However, turnpike officials are moving forward as if construction funding is imminent.

Oliver said turnpike representatives provided several details, including:

* The project is scheduled to be bid in 2016. Turnpike officials earlier estimated total cost, including construction and design, at $223 million.

* There will be two traffic signals on S.R. 44 at the entrance and exit of the parkway. While the actual alignment is not finalized, the most recent alignment has the parkway intersecting S.R. 44 just east of the Crystal Oaks development entrance.

* The interchange at Cardinal Street will be built. That’s a significant change from earlier plans to delay the Cardinal interchange until deemed necessary. Also, Cardinal will pass over the parkway, with the state paying for the overpass.

* The state will build a bicycle trail, just as it did on Suncoast 1, with the county in charge of maintenance.

* A trailhead will be considered at the S.R 44 interchange.

* The state will schedule a public hearing sometime this year when plans are finalized.

Rogers said he believes much of the right of way for the section between U.S. 98 and S.R. 44 is either purchased or already under state ownership as conservation lands. He said the Department of Transportation would seek to lease the right of way it needs for the parkway.

Rogers said the news did not catch county officials off guard because the state has been buying right of way the last two years.

“The only thing surprising,” he said, “was the Cardinal interchange is now in there.”

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