By Kyle LoJacono
Drivers who frequent SR 56 around Meadow Pointe and Mansfield boulevards in Wesley Chapel will have some relief in navigating the increasingly busy highway.
Robert Shepherd, Pasco County chief project manager, said the county is in the process of installing traffic signals at the intersections of SR 56 and Mansfield and also where the state road ends at Meadow Pointe.
“I think they should be finished on March 1,” Shepherd said.
Shepherd said private developers are putting in the lights at no cost to the county. He said signals usually cost about $180,000 each.
The county had hoped to have the lights installed when the extension of SR 56 opened, but problems developed with the original construction company. WDG Construction Inc. was removed from the job last year in part because it fell behind schedule.
Pasco replaced WDG with Ripa & Associates. County chief engineer Jim Widman said the replacement company got the road opened in time for the school year. Both Wiregrass Ranch High and John Long Middle are on Mansfield near SR 56.
“That helped because I’m told the school buses mainly use Mansfield to get to and from the schools.” Widman said. “The road let the bus drivers cut out miles from their routes, which saved the county money.”
The large concrete poles needed to hang lights across six lanes of traffic were not available until after the new year. South West Signal, a Tampa-based company, is installing the lights.
Also, the area where SR 56 ends at Meadow Pointe currently has a three-way stop. Shepherd said that intersection has become increasingly busy.
“People in Meadow Pointe are using it to cut down on their travel and people are also using it to avoid the construction to widen State Road 54,” Shepherd said. “When an area isn’t busy a three or four-way stop works fine, but when you get a lot of cars there tend to be more accidents.”
The Meadow Pointe light will also pave the way for the further extension of SR 56 all the way to US 301 in Zephyrhills.
“The long-term plan is to take 54 all the way out east to connect the county,” said Pasco Commissioner Pat Mulieri. “It’s many years off, but that’s the plan.”
Shepherd said the speed limit will be adjusted once the traffic signals open, but was not sure what the new limit would be. Currently the majority of SR 56 has a 55 mph limit, but that is reduced to 50 near the intersection with Mansfield and drops to 40 at the crossing.