By Matt Wiley

Interest from private firms is building regarding the possible construction of a toll road that would connect Wesley Chapel to western Pasco County.

According to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), a Request for Proposals (RFP) was opened on August 23, after the agency received an unsolicited bid from International Infrastructure Partners (IIP), LLC — a group of investors and infrastructure construction companies — to lease right-of-way to fund, design, build, operate and maintain a toll road with elevated and “at-grade” lanes along the more than 33-mile stretch of S.R. 54/56 from Wesley Chapel to New Port Richey.

“(FDOT) is very intrigued,” says FDOT spokeswoman Kris Carson. “But, this is all still in the beginning stages. Our Tallahassee office has already received calls for information from several other firms.”

Carson explains that the bid, which was written by Gerald Stanley — who has more than 45 years in the state’s highway and bridge construction industry and serves as a consultant to FDOT and other engineering companies and contractors — was received on June 11, but it was not released until August 23. Since the company sent in a proposal, by law, FDOT had to open an RFP period to see if other companies were interested in the project. The period for proposals is set to close on October 23.

In its initial proposal, IIP describes the project being built in phases, the first right here in Wesley Chapel, from Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. west to the Suncoast Pkwy. toll road, followed by a second phase that would connect to U.S. 19 in New Port Richey, a total of about 33 miles. The firm also considers further connecting the proposed toll road east to U.S. 301.

An FDOT release states that this would be the first of its kind in the state, as no other toll road has been privately funded and constructed entirely in state-owned right-of-way. Because of this, IIP says that the road literally would cost the taxpayers nothing to build. Instead, Guggenheim Securities, LLC, a capital partner of IIP, would fund the project, Stanley writes in his proposal. The estimated cost of the project and the amount that IIP would spend to lease the right-of-way was not disclosed in the proposal.

If IIP’s proposal were approved, the actual construction of the project would be done by Edmonton, Alberta (Canada)-based PCL Construction, which constructed the fly-over on-ramp onto I-75 from BBD and currently is working on the I-4 Crosstown Connector project near the Port of Tampa.

In his proposal, Stanley touts that the project will create thousands of jobs in the state, provide critical infrastructure ahead of the current planned timeline and at no upfront costs, while providing connections to existing State and County roads to reduce congestion and begin the northern loop around the Tampa Bay area. The proposed project also will offer the flexibility to add additional facilities and connections in the future.

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