Few lingering issues remain
By Kyle LoJacono
The most expensive road project in Pasco County history should be completed sooner than expected.
Pasco Chief Engineer Jim Widman said he expects the job to widen SR 54 to six lanes between I-75 and Curley Road will be done by the end of the year. The 3.2-mile project in Wesley Chapel is being completed by Pepper Contracting Services Inc.
“They’ve been really moving,” Widman said. “The original plans were for them to be done in the first half of 2012. We’ve been lucky to have a mild winter and without a lot of rain, so they’ve been able to work most of the time.”
Roadwork comes to a halt in cold or rainy weather. Widman went to say the project is about two-thirds compete.
The project, which started last March 29, was scheduled to take 21 months. The construction cost the county $28 million, which is only a fraction of the $105.2 million total price tag.
“This project was so expensive because we had to buy a lot of property that had businesses on it,” said Pasco Commissioner Pat Mulieri. “The board created a new policy for growth so buildings are further away from roads to account for future widening so we don’t have that problem any more.”
While the project is progressing ahead of schedule, two issues remain. Both involve the old traffic signal at Boyette Road.
Bob Williams, founder of Support Our Troops, has seen donations for his program drop dramatically during the last few months. The group sends supplies to U.S. soldiers serving out of the country.
Williams, of Lutz, said the removal of the light at SR 54 and Boyette, where Support Our Troops is located, makes it dangerous for people to enter or leave his building.
The light was taken out at the intersection and a new one was placed just east at the corner of SR 54 and Vandine Road, which opened in December. Williams said the removal of the older light makes it difficult for big semi trucks full of donations to turn into his facility.
Williams said one of his biggest donors no longer gives to the group because of the new alignment. Williams guessed the project has reduced donations by 200 tons.
Another issue with the light’s removal is the Wesley Chapel Post Office is on Boyette. Williams said he has heard complaints from people who have or nearly had accidents getting to and from the post office.
One of those is Megan Hill, who was nearly hit while dropping off Christmas presents to be mailed in December. She lives east of the post office and the new configuration of SR 54 made it difficult for her to see when to turn on Boyette.
“You’re right up against the buildings and then the turn is just past them,” Hill said. “I hit the brakes to turn right and the person behind me had to go into the other lane of traffic to not hit me. I’ve lived here for 10 years, but I almost missed that turn I’ve made about 100 times.”
Williams said the light had to be removed to meet the Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) rules, which require traffic signals to be more spaced out.
“We’re asking FDOT to approve our request for a waiver to put the light back in,” Widman said. “We believe they will approve that and then these problems will be solved.”
Widman said the decision on the waiver should come down in the next few weeks to two months.