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Pasco Tribune

Parkway fix to cost $1M

Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 07:47 PM

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All four lanes of the Suncoast Parkway north of Hernando County were closed for 10 days in June after Tropical Stormy Debby dumped million of gallons of water on the road.

To avoid future closures, Florida's Turnpike Enterprise officials said this week they will spend $1 million to expand the retention pond near U.S. 98 to make it capable of storing another 15 million gallons of water.

Workers will also install piping within the right of way to accommodate pumping of any future overflow. That would prevent the closing of the adjacent Suncoast Trail bicycle and pedestrian path, which was blocked last June because of the pumps.

The improvements will begin early in 2013 and should be done before the arrival of hurricane season, which starts June 1.

Turnpike officials said the parkway is a vital evacuation route and they want to ensure it is ready for the next rainy season.

The permanent solution to the flooding problem is to elevate a section of the road and improve drainage along U.S. 98.

But that won't happen until the second phase of parkway construction is under way sometime in the future, said Christa Deason, public information officer with Florida's Turnpike Enterprise.

Turnpike officials have spent the last several months reviewing the area and, using backup information from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, looked at the changes that took place in the immediate area since that part of the parkway opened to traffic a decade ago.

The report found that the parkway was able to handle water generated on its own system, but not the excessive amounts of water overflowing from adjoining properties and drainage basins.

"Tropical Storm Debby brought unprecedented amounts of rainfall to the entire west coast and northern interior sections of Florida and its effects are still being felt in some areas," according to Deason.

The parkway can handle almost 7 inches of rain for five consecutive days. Hernando County received more than 12 inches in one day alone during the height of the storm. (352) 544-5290

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