THE ISSUE: Plans on hold to extend Suncoast Parkway; County Road 486 exit.

OUR OPINION: Not the end of the road.

Cheers greeted the Florida Department of Transportation’s recent announcement to place on hold plans for extending the Suncoast Parkway.

If you think the “hold” means the parkway is done, you had better buckle up.

State officials merely want to ensure upcoming plans for the Suncoast line up with the roadway’s projected conclusion at State Road 44 or, possibly, County Road 486, Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault told a group of Citrus County business leaders during Legislative Days.

The decision is sensible. Decision makers should not speculate when it comes to final path of Suncoast Parkway. The task forces are scheduled to complete their work in October. Thibault agreed it made no sense to continue planning the Suncoast Parkway route through Citrus County prior to the M-CORES task forces reaching their conclusion.

The Legislature last year created the M-CORES — Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance — program to build three new toll roads by 2030. Two of the three directly affect Citrus County: extending the Suncoast Parkway north to Georgia; and extending Florida’s Turnpike from Wildwood to an unknown point at the Suncoast.

Does that mean better planning is ahead for the FDOT? We’d like to believe so.

Currently, the state is in the process of building the Suncoast 2 extension between U.S. 98 and S.R. 44. At the county’s request, the state added another 3-mile leg to

C.R. 486, and had planned to continue the roadway to U.S. 19 in Red Level as was originally envisioned for the Suncoast Parkway 25 years ago.

Pine Ridge residents, who feared the second phase of the Suncoast Parkway 2 would end at their subdivision entrance, breathed a sigh of relief after state transportation officials presented two proposals, each about 1,400 feet east of the community’s front door.

“We listened. We met with the homeowner associations. We heard ... they did not want a direct connection (onto West Pine Ridge Boulevard),” said Stephanie Eisenberg, spokeswoman for the FDOT.

“I don’t want to get too far ahead of it,” Thibault said. “I don’t want to develop something and have to tear it out later.”

We should heed the same advice and manage expectations.

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