Roads ‘finally coming’ to east Pasco

Ongoing road construction translates to “good things” for Pasco County — that was the message that Pasco County Commissioner Ron Oakley brought to The Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce’s breakfast meeting.

Oakley was the chamber’s featured guest speaker on Sept. 19 at Bayfront Health.

Speaking to a crowd that numbered in the dozens, Oakley provided updates on several priority projects.

Among the projects he discussed:

  • State Road 56 extension: The $65 million four-lane project — which extends from Meadow Point Boulevard in Wesley Chapel, 6 miles east to U. S. 301 and State Road 41 in Zephyrhills — should be complete within the next 18 months to two years, Oakley said. “You can see that it’s already being worked through, and there’s already lime rock at U.S. 301.”
  • State Road 54 (Curley Road to Morris Bridge Road): This project involves the widening of State Road 54 from Curley Road to east of Morris Bridge Road. State Road 54 will be widened to six lanes from Curley Road to Foxwood Boulevard and to four lanes from Foxwood Boulevard to Morris Bridge Road. Oakley said utilities are underway, with the right-of-way acquisition process already complete.
  • Interstate 75 and State Road 56 interchange: The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is slated to begin construction sometime next year on a $18.5 million diverging diamond interchange project for the 2.3-mile-long northbound exit. Such projects, according to the website DivergingDiamond.com, are designed to create fewer conflict points when traveling through them, have better sight distance at turns, shorter pedestrian crossings and wrong-way ramps that are extremely difficult to access. “They have one of those in Sarasota now, and it’s working very well,” Oakley said.
  • Eiland Boulevard: Eiland Boulevard, stretching to Handcart Road, will be repaved, beginning sometime in November. Traffic signals also are coming to the intersections of Eiland and Handcart, and Eiland and Geiger Road.

Pasco County Commissioner Ron Oakley was the featured guest speaker at the Dade City Chamber Breakfast on Sept. 19. (Courtesy of Pasco County)

Oakley underscored the importance of ongoing road projects in one of the state’s fastest-growing counties, particularly for major events like the annual Kumquat Festival in Dade City, which draws more than 40,000 people.

“They have a hard time getting here, and once they get in here, they have a hard time getting out of here. It’s a fact. The roads don’t allow them to get out,” said Oakley, whose district includes the largest geographic area of the county, stretching from south of Zephyrhills to a portion of Shady Hills west of the Suncoast Parkway.

Pasco, which recently crossed the 500,000-population threshold, now has approximately 505,000 residents.

The figure is estimated to grow to 750,000 people by 2030, and more than 1 million by 2040.

Oakley pointed out the U.S. Department of Transportation has already allocated $350 million for countywide road spending.

“The road construction…is coming finally to our area,” Oakley said. “It’s been my entire lifetime we’ve been here waiting on four-lane roads on (State Road) 52 and other roads for a long time.”

He added: “Those roads are coming, and it’s going to be better, but the problem is we’ve got to walk through all this construction and bear with it for a little while longer.”

Oakley also tackled the ongoing traffic congestion at the intersection of U.S. 41 and State Road 54, in Lutz and Land O’ Lakes.

The interim fix for the intersection, through which nearly 100,000 vehicles travel daily, calls for extending the length of turn lanes at a cost of about $1.5 million. The plan, for eastbound State Road 54 motorists, would extend the length of the right-turn lane from 215 feet to 1,050 feet; extend the inside left-turn lane from 350 feet to 750 feet; and extend the outside left-turn lane to 875 feet.

Pasco County Commissioner Ron Oakley addressed the ongoing traffic congestion at the intersection of U.S. 41 and State Road 54 in Lutz and Land O’ Lakes. ‘It needs 10 lanes,’ he said. (File)

The commissioner served up his own solution: “What needs to be done at (U.S.) 41 and (State Road) 54? It needs 10 lanes. Guess what it takes to get them? All four corners have to be bought in the future, to make that wider, handle that traffic.”

Besides road projects, Oakley updated chamber members on Connected City, a master-planned community in eastern Pasco County that promises the fastest Internet and Wi-Fi speeds in the nation.

At its 50-year build out, Connected City — encompassing about 7,800 acres bordered by Interstate 75, State Road 52, State Road 54, and Curley and Overpass roads — is expected to have more than 96,000 residents within multiple neighborhoods; 37,000 homes and apartments; as many as 7.2 million square feet of employment facilities; and, a role-model reputation for technology innovation.

Oakley said the first phase of Connected City, now being developed on the former Epperson Ranch by Metro Development Group, already has 120 lots finished and 25 families living there, with another 75 lots in the process of being closed.

The initial progress, Oakley said, unexpectedly translated to an additional $2 million in school impact fees for the county this past quarter.

“It’s booming already,” he said of the high-tech community.

“That’s a big infrastructure part of our county. That’s quite a push in the economy and quite a push in homes coming in,” he said.

Published September 27, 2017

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