For Full Story: Citrus County Chronicle

Article By: Mike Wright


State transportation officials, for the first time, have confirmed a plan to continue the Suncoast Parkway to County Road 486 to follow the completion of the connection to State Road 44.

The Florida Department of Transportation’s District 7 five-year plan for Citrus County includes $86.6 million to extend the parkway three miles from S.R. 44 to C.R. 486.

The plan will be presented to the Hernando-Citrus Metropolitan Planning Organization at its meeting Wednesday.

Citrus County commissioners discussed the parkway briefly Tuesday during a planning retreat at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.

Commissioners said they hoped this is a sign that the state plans to continue the parkway north out of Citrus County.

While the state has not decided on a specific route, it already owns much of the right of way based on plans 20 years ago to extend the parkway from U.S. 98 to U.S.19 north of Crystal River. The original plans had an overpass without an exit at C.R. 486.

Pine Ridge residents asked commissioners last week for help in urging the state to push the parkway terminus further east. Residents said they feared a significant bump in traffic through their community from the parkway.

Commissioners, however, said their focus should be on supporting the parkway’s continued northern route, out of Citrus County.

Commissioner Scott Carnahan said he thinks once that happens the state will close the C.R. 486 exit and make it an overpass, as was the state’s original plans.

County Administrator Randy Oliver and Commissioner Jimmie T. Smith, however, said they doubt that will happen.

“I’ve never seen one go away,” Oliver said.

Commissioner Brian Coleman said he doesn’t think Pine Ridge residents have a worry. He said he’s heard from other Pine Ridge residents who are looking forward to the close parkway access.

He noted that when the parkway ends at C.R. 486, motorists will be directed east toward C.R. 491 or west toward Crystal River.

“They’re either going to go left or right,” Coleman said.

The five-year plan includes:

–2020, $3 million for planning/engineering and right of way. The plan will include an optional design to continue the roadway north to U.S. 19, the FDOT report states.

–2022, $18.2 million for right of way and relocating utilities.

–2024, $65 million for construction.

 “It’s what Citrus County has been asking for and now they’re getting it,” said Steve Diez, executive director of the Hernando-Citrus MPO.

Diez said he does not know what the FDOT’s proposed route will be to County Road 486 and is hoping for more specifics from Jim Martin, the FDOT’s liaison with Florida Turnpike Enterprise, when he gives his report Wednesday to the MPO board regarding the five-year tentative work program.