Finish the Ridge Road Extension and save lives
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For the past two decades, Pasco County has been working towards an infrastructure project to alleviate traffic issues along two of the major East-West highways for everyday travel and more critically, provide a Hurricane evacuation route for the coastal region. The 8 mile extension of Ridge Road accomplishes these key infrastructure goals while maintaining the environmental integrity of the Serenova Tract through strategic route planning and elevating roadways away from wildlife and wetlands. This plan, and the benefits associated with it, has been held up for various reasons for far too long and it is time for the construction to begin. It has been noted time and again by engineers that this is the best alternative.
The western portion of Pasco County is especially susceptible to hurricanes due to its low elevation and lack of natural barriers to mitigate strong winds and flooding. The two escape routes available for people in need of evacuation are State Road 52 and 54. These highways are already overburdened with traffic and insufficient to transport the coastal population to safe ground in the event of an emergency. Furthermore, both highways have historically flooded or have seen trees and power lines down, cutting off the road. In 2012, Tropical Storm Debby, shut down 54 for several days, and as did another storm in 2016, further restricting their ability to act as an escape route. There is a clear need for a third evacuation route for those living near the coast. Of the 16 different plans, engineers have shown that other alternatives, such as Tower Road, are insufficient. Given Pasco County’s position between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, hurricanes are not a question of “if” but “when”. This road needs to get built soon, before Pasco is staring down a hurricane and a crisis.
Pasco County was listed in the top 100 fasted growing areas in the US. The extension of Ridge Road will alleviate growing traffic concerns in Pasco County. As growth continues to occur in the county, it is important that infrastructure keeps up with the needs of the population. This road will allow motorists to move East and West without further crowding State Road 52 and 54. Both highways are currently overcrowded and showing signs of disrepair. The intersection of Hwy 41 and SR 52 are two lanes each and currently bottleneck causing significant traffic back up during peak hours. Ridge Road will also help alleviate this intersection by allowing an alternative route. These issues will only be exasperated in the next 10 to 15 years and it is imperative that this problem is addressed before it becomes an infrastructure crisis.
Most of the opposition stems from concerns about the environmental impact of a road through the Serenova Tract. These concerns have been studied extensively over the years with many alternative routes analyzed for potential environmental impact. The current plan has taken all the available data under consideration and designed the road to mitigate most, if not all of the environmental impacts. The US Army Corp of Engineers has determined the current plan is the “least environmentally damaging practical alternative”. The proposed extension of Ridge Road will feature long stretches of bridged roadway so that animals living in the area will not come in contact with motorists. This elevating of the road will protect wetlands and allow wildlife to follow their natural movement patterns through swamplands. The environmental impacts of this project are of paramount concern to all those involved in the project and every necessary precaution will continue to be taken to protect the Serenova Tract.
Throughout the US and worldwide, wildlife crossings have been in use, are on the rise, and have proven effective. In Florida, there are 69 such crossings, some specifically to save the Florida Panther, which they have done. Not only can these crossings save the lives of animals, enable the animals to navigate safely from one side to the other, these crossings can also be utilized for ecological and educational purposes by studying the wildlife that transit these crossings. Research has shown that these crossings can be up to 96% effective at preventing wildlife vehicle collisions.
There is no question that Pasco County needs to invest in its infrastructure as it continues to grow. Traffic buildup and natural disaster preparedness are growing concerns. The extension of Ridge Road provides another East-West route for hurricane evacuation as well as citizen travel. There exist valid concerns about the environmental impacts to the Serenova Tract, but they have been addressed at every stage of this project and will continue to be monitored during the development of this road. The Army Corp of Engineers and the County have developed a plan that minimizes impact and allows for wildlife to exist completely independent of this road. This infrastructure project is two decades overdue and it is time that construction begins on this vital roadway. Please join in the effort to support Pasco County’s proposal to extend Ridge Road and improve life for all residents by signing this petition.
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Finish this extension. It’s been proven that this is the best alternative from all aspects; environmental, evacuation, and economical. We waste more gas, time, see more accidents, more emissions because of the bottlenecks that happen on the current main roads. What about those environmental and monetary impacts? Get this extension finished, save lives, save time, increase the economic development of this fast-growing county.
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