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ISSUE: 2009 County Commission vote will determine parkway future.

By Alison Markham, Broker-Associate, GRI, Realtor® | February 26, 2008

By Chronicle

After 14 years of discussion, planning, public meetings and design, the long-delayed Suncoast Parkway extension through Citrus County is moving toward a final decision in 2009.
The decision will be made by the Citrus County Commission, which is expected to vote yes or no on the project in mid-2009, when the project design will be 60 percent complete. This vote is a statement of whether the project has public support in the county and is a requirement for moving forward with construction.
By the time the commission votes, millions of dollars will have been invested in the project, but the project could die with a simple majority vote against parkway expansion.
Commission approval is one part of a long, convoluted process for approving an expansion of Florida’s turnpike system. The process involves establishing a need for the road, a determination that it can be done in an environmentally sound manner, that it is financially feasible, and that it has local support.
Like any infrastructure expansion, the Suncoast Parkway has gained its share of detractors and it has engendered emotional debate about the impact of the project on the quality of life in the county.
Despite opposition to the parkway expansion among some in the community, extending the toll road through Citrus County is important for safety during an evacuation for hurricanes or other natural disasters, it is important to prevent the negative environmental impact of further widening and expanding U.S. 19, and it is important for county residents who would otherwise have to pay for additional road expansion within the county.
As the race for three seats on the five-member commission moves forward this year, one issue voters should consider is the stand candidates take on expansion of the parkway. The commissioners we elect this fall will make the decision on whether this important infrastructure expansion continues or dies.
We have long said that we do not want our community to have the congested development along U.S. 19 that is found south of Citrus County, but if our commission fails to support the parkway next year, that could well be the fate of the strip of highway from south of Homosassa to north of Crystal River.
Development is coming to our community. The real question is whether we will be prepared with the infrastructure to support that development, or whether we will choke on our own congestion and by default become the New Port Richey-type community we all want to avoid becoming.

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