Study seeks direct route between Tampa, Jacksonville within 50 years

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The Suncoast Parkway could eventually link Tampa to Jacksonville, according to an official with the Florida Department of Transportation. But don’t expect a direct run to Northeast Florida anytime soon.

This connection could involve Citrus County through the currently delayed road project known as Suncoast Parkway 2, but it would be part of a projected plan that may be 50 years down the road. It was the subject of a presentation Thursday in Citrus Hills to the Florida Engineering Society.

Making the presentation was FDOT administrator Huiwei Shen, Intergovernmental Programs, Office of Planning Policy. Shen was invited by Jeffrey Rogers, director, Citrus County Engineering Division. Forty-two people attended, including some from surrounding counties, all curious about future road projects.

Eric Williams, assistant city manager/manager in training, city of Inverness, who attended with Dale Malm, Inverness interim community development director, said the presentation was “very informative.”

According to Crystal River City Manager Andy Houston, who attended the meeting with Dave Burnell, the city’s public works director, FDOT staff showed a map that projected the proposed connection beyond Suncoast Parkway 2.

Asked if the map as yet linked to Jacksonville, Houston replied: “It’s going that way. None of it is funded right now. It’s all conceptual.”

Houston said Shen presented information from the Florida Future Corridors Tampa Bay Northeast study area concept report, details of which can be found online at www.fl _concept.htm.

Shen said on Monday that her audience was most interested in the Tampa Bay to Northeast Florida study area.

“I got a lot of questions about Suncoast 2,” Shen said. “The Future Corridors planning initiative is actually a 50-year planning time horizon that we’re looking at.”

And connecting Tampa Bay to Jacksonville through Citrus County is just one planning choice.

“Suncoast 2, if we considered that alternative, it’s just going to be one of the recommended solutions at this point,” Shen explained. “As I told the engineers who were at the meeting, at this point what we’ve done is a very initial evaluation pulling the data together, painting a profile of the region. We haven’t even gotten into specific recommendations.”