New Boyette Road opens, lanes shift
By Kyle LoJacono
Drivers passing through the construction site to widen SR 54 in Wesley Chapel likely noticed a big change during the last few days.
The $105.2 million project, the most expensive in Pasco County history, is widening the 3.2 miles of highway from I-75 to Curley Road to six lanes. The project passed the symbolic halfway point Dec. 15 when the traffic pattern shifted and the new portion of Boyette Road opened.
“We worked extra hours to make sure it was done by that time,” said Robert Shepherd, Pasco chief project manager. “We’re actually much further than halfway done because virtually all the utilities have been moved and only about 40 percent of the time has passed.”
The original contract called for the job to take 21 months and be done by the beginning of March 2012. Shepherd estimated more than 60 percent of the widening is finished, but hesitated to give a new completion date because, “Anything can happen in construction.”
Along with the traffic shifts, the new entrance to Boyette Road opened Dec. 15. The new street was part of the SR 54 contracted, which is being completed by Pepper Contracting Services Inc.
James Widman, Pasco chief engineer, said the new portion of Boyette was created to greatly reduce the amount of traffic on the winding Boyette Road.
“The (Pasco) commission wants to make the roads safer by straightening roads and intersections like Boyette,” Widman said. “Our engineering study of the area from (2004) showed the S-curve in Boyette to be dangerous and the project is working to create a straighter road for most of the traffic.”
The older entrance to Boyette was the easiest way for many people to get to the Wesley Chapel District Park, the largest county recreation facility in east and central Pasco. The stoplight at the older entrance has also be removed and replaced by a new traffic signal at the new intersection of Boyette and SR 54.
Shepherd said the traffic shift and opening of the new entrance of Boyette would have been done a few weeks earlier if the cold weather had not delayed things.
“You can’t do a lot of road work when it is cold,” Shepherd said. “The asphalt won’t harden and there are other problems with working in cold weather.”