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Huh? After Bailing Out Toll Road, Florida Wants to Expand It

3:06 PM EST on February 18, 2016

Tampa's Suncoast 2 toll road is an assured financial loser. But that hasn't stopped the state from promoting it. Map: Suncoast2online.com
Tampa's Suncoast 2 toll road is guaranteed to be a financial loser. But that hasn't stopped the state from plowing ahead. Map: Suncoast2online.com

By any reasonable measure, the Suncoast Parkway in the Tampa Bay Area has been a complete failure.

When it was first proposed, in 1992, consultants predicted the $507 million, 42-mile toll road from Hillsborough to Hernando County would fill up with cars -- thanks to the sprawl everyone was sure would follow it. Consultants originally forecast $150 million in annual toll revenue.

Since then, according to an excellent summary from Tampa Times reporter Craig Pittman, that forecast was downgraded -- twice. But the highway still didn't meet the revised projections. In 2014, the road brought in just $22 million in tolls. Today the state of Florida heavily subsidizes the Suncoast Parkway with funds from other toll roads, Pittman reports.

But if you think that's going to stop the state of Florida from expanding the highway 13 miles further into rural lands -- including a national forest -- think again.

"Suncoast 2" is "moving ahead," Pittman reports, despite strong public opposition. Governor Rick Scott himself -- who couldn't tolerate the thought of cost overruns for high-speed rail -- has teed up $150 million for the $257 million expansion project. Suncoast 2 is expected to generate just $3.8 in tolls in 2020 and only $14 million in 2049.

The project is set to break ground this year, the Times reports, and open in 2019.

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