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Anticipated US 41 and State Road 54 Intersection May Encounter New Challenges

development

Pasco County officials, already grappling with challenges from the new Live Local Act allowing apartments on commercial land, now fear it could further complicate and escalate costs for the long-awaited solution to the congested U.S. 41 and State Road 54 intersection. The potential sale of a crucial land for an overpass and intersection redesign to an apartment builder adds an additional hurdle to the state’s years-long efforts to address daily traffic backups at the Land O’ Lakes crossroad.

Pasco County Commissioner Seth Weightman shared concerning news with the Metropolitan Planning Organization. He highlighted the imminent risk of losing a crucial property for improving the U.S. 41 and State Road 54 intersection to multifamily development. Tania Gorman, a principal transportation planner, emphasized the significance of the intersection reconstruction project. The project is currently slated for the state Department of Transportation to acquire land in 2028. After years of deliberation and consideration of various proposals, they recently chose an overpass design. The project, initially scheduled for further study, could cost over half a billion dollars.

The overpass cost has surged from an initial $222 million in February to a current estimate of $260 million. This includes a staggering $60 million for acquiring right of way. Pasco County Commission chairperson Jack Mariano proposed exploring options to alter land use designations, potentially curbing the impact of the Live Local law on properties near the intersection.

The developer receives a prolonged property tax abatement, purportedly to encourage affordable housing construction. However, Pasco contends that communities requiring land for job-generating development should be exempt from this law. David Goldstein, chief assistant county attorney, dismissed the idea of simply changing a landowner’s land-use designation. Goldstein suggested exploring the option of engaging the landowner in discussions.

State officials occasionally utilize eminent domain, a legal tool for governments to acquire private property for public use. However, US 41 project planners argue that the project is not sufficiently advanced in the planning process to employ this method. The Metropolitan Planning Organization unanimously decided to initiate discussions with the owner of the site southwest of the intersection for a potential early purchase. Commissioner Seth Weightman stressed the urgency, emphasizing the need to start exploring this option promptly.

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