Session highlights area roads

Pasco County residents had the chance to gain insight on three local road projects at a Feb. 26 open house presented by the Florida Department of Transportation.

The state road department officials fielded questions from residents during the session at Pasco-Hernando State College’s Porter Campus at Wiregrass Ranch, in Wesley Chapel.

Residents could view poster boards and watch videos to learn more about these three projects:

  • The Diverging Diamond Interchange connecting State Road 56 with Interstate 75 in Wesley Chapel.
  • The State Road 56 extension from Meadow Pointe Boulevard to U.S. 301
  • Widening Old State Road 54 east of Curley Road to east of Morris Bridge Road

While residents appeared to be interested in all three projects, the Diverging Diamond seemed to attract the most attention.

“This is the one that matters most to me,” said Lee Anne Pete, noting she drives in the State Road 56 and Interstate 75 area “every day, at least once.”

John McShaffrey, left, of the Florida Department of Transportation, informs Mike Lin on the operation of the Diverging Diamond Interchange in Wesley Chapel. (Brian Fernandes)

Since she and her husband moved to the area a decade ago, they have witnessed the growing development along State Road 54 and State Road 56.

The Wesley Chapel resident said she often gets stuck in traffic congestion on the northbound ramp leading onto State Road 56, from I-75.

One comforting solution for Pete is a third lane being added to the ramp leading west onto the State Road 56 bridge.

Currently, the 2-mile ramp branches off: Two lanes head west on State Road 56 and two lanes head east.

Greg Deese, FDOT resident engineer said: “This has been a long time coming in regard to congestion relief. We’re hopeful that’s what this is going to accomplish.”

Since construction began in January, workers are continuing to install drainage pipes under the southbound ramp heading onto I-75 and the northbound ramp heading onto State Road 56.

This, in conjunction with a lane expansion on the northbound ramp, may result in future lane closures.

However, any closures will continue to occur only at night from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

The next phase will be reconfiguring lanes on State Road 56 to crisscross before reaching the bridge, Deese said.

“Most of the time, you’re going to see during traffic shifts [that] they’re going to be working behind concrete barrier walls,” the engineer added. “You’re going to see the construction, but they’re not going to close lanes – especially during the day.”

The state transportation department projects that impacts to normal traffic flow will not be an issue whether traveling on or off the bridge.

Although the reception has been generally positive regarding the interchange, there are those who have expressed their concerns.

Mike Lin is somewhat skeptical of the added traffic light where the northbound ramp leads east onto State Road 56.

Currently, traffic on the ramp merging eastbound onto State Road 56 becomes congested even with no stop light present.

With the addition of the light, the New Tampa resident fears it will only worsen an already existing problem.

And, while the state transportation department assures that the bridge will not need to undergo an expansion for additional lanes, Lin has doubts about that, as well.

“How do you get it to fit in the existing bridge?” Lin asked. “Unless you’re going to make the lanes narrower, I don’t know how you do that,” he added.

The project plans to have three lanes heading eastbound on the State Road 56 bridge.

Westbound traffic will hold six lanes as studies show there is heavier activity on that route.

The $33-million interchange project is set for completion in late 2021.

Another road project featured at the meeting was the extension of State Road 56, from Meadow Pointe Boulevard in Wesley Chapel to U.S. 301 in Zephyrhills.

The $59.2-million project is of much interest, as it creates a direct link from Wesley Chapel into Zephyrhills.

Along State Road 56, pedestrians will be accommodated with a multipurpose trail on the south end, a sidewalk on the north end and bicycle lanes on both ends of the road.

The 6-mile project is expected to be completed later this year.

Another project featured at the open house involves the widening of Old State Road 54, east of Curley Road in Wesley Chapel to the east of Morris Bridge Road in Zephyrhills.

The 4.5-mile project will expand Old State Road 54 from two lanes to four lanes, divided by medians.

A sidewalk will be added to the north end, while a multipurpose trail will be added to the south end.

The $42.5-million project is expected to be complete by mid-2021.

Published March 06, 2019

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