State Road 56 Extension gives drivers another option

Motorists heading through the county to or from East Pasco now have a new way to do it.

The State Road 56 Extension, which links Meadow Pointe Boulevard in Wesley Chapel to U.S. 301 in Greater Zephyrhills, opened on July 10.

This view shows State Road 56, looking east from Meadow Pointe Boulevard, on a new 6-mile stretch of the road, linking Wesley Chapel to Zephyrhills. The road opened to the public on July 10. (Tyler Nathe, Aerial Photography Tampa, AerialPhotographyTampa.com)

Dignitaries and members of the media gathered for a preview of the road the day before it opened to the public.

Pasco County Commission Chairman Ron Oakley noted the significance of the new 6-mile stretch.

“It’s the first time in my lifetime that we’ve had a four-lane road from West Pasco all of the way to East Pasco,” Oakley said, noting the road closes a missing link between U.S. 301 on the east and U.S. 19 on the west.

“It’s an awesome day for the citizens of Pasco County,” added County Commissioner Mike Moore. “It’s going to bring a better quality of life for all of our citizens, and it’s going to bring opportunity to this area also.”

Moore noted the project wouldn’t have happened without the foresight of Will Weatherford, former Speaker of the House of the Florida House of Representatives, who secured funding to extend the road.

However, the state’s plans called for the extension to be a two-lane road.

Pasco County District 1 Commissioner Ron Oakley speaks about the project, during the media event held on July 9. (Christine Holtzman)

That was before the community of Zephyrhills rallied behind an effort to make it a four-lane road. They won the support of then State Rep. Danny Burgess and then State Rep. John Legg, who met with then Department of Transportation Secretary Jim Boxold, who suggested the possibility of a state loan to pay for the second two lanes.

That plan came together through the collaboration of Pasco County officials, the City of Zephyrhills, private landowners and the contractor.

“This is really a monumental occasion,” said David Gwynn, District Seven secretary for the Florida Department of Transportation. “Although this is a DOT project, DOT was just one player in this.”

Now, the road is open, with signalized intersections at U.S. 301 and Morris Bridge Road, and features a multi-use trail, a sidewalk and bicycle lanes.

Melonie Monson, executive director of the Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce, anticipates the tourist and economic growth that the new State Road 56 extension will provide to Downtown Zephyrhills. (Christine Holtzman)

After the preview tour, Oakley headed to a county commissioner meeting, where he marveled at the new road.

“It is absolutely beautiful. If you can drive that road, you’ll see Old Florida because there’s never been a road through there before. You’ll see sights that you’ve never been able to see,” he said.

Of course, the view won’t last forever, Oakley said.

“See it now, because in 8 (years) to 10 years, that will change,” Oakley said, as new homes, new businesses and possibly a school are built in the area.

“A lot of growth will happen from this,” he said.

Milestones

  • Speaker of the House Will Weatherford announces private-public funding plan for extension of State Road 56 to U.S. 301: November 2013
  • Zephyrhills community pushes for four-lane extension, rather than a two-lane link, at town hall meeting with Rep. Danny Burgess and State Sen. John Legg: February 2015
  • State Rep. Danny Burgess and State Sen. John Legg meet with Department of Transportation Secretary Jim Boxold, who offers the possibility of a state infrastructure loan: April 2015
  • Pasco Commission approves series of agreements with state, City of Zephyrhills and private landowners, clearing the way for the state loan: January 2016.
  • Road opens to public: July 2019

By Brian Fernandes and B.C. Manion

Published July 17, 2019

A car heads south down US 301, near the brand-new intersection with State Road 56 in Zephyrhills. The new extension of roadway provides a direct east and west connection between Zephyrhills and Wesley Chapel. (Christine Holtzman)

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