By Kyle LoJacono
Drivers are now able to use the new exit ramp to SR 56 from I-75 in Wesley Chapel. It opened Tuesday, Aug. 16 at 5 a.m, according to Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) public information officer John McShaffrey.
“The point of the project is to let drivers exit to SR 56 before I-75 and I-275 come together,” McShaffrey said. “A lot of cars that come together right there and if we can get people to their exit before the merger, that will help reduce the traffic.”
The project, which started in fall 2009, is adding the new off ramp from I-275, while also improving the exit to SR 56 from I-75 and resurfacing the roadway.
The off ramp from I-275 will include a bridge to take drivers over I-75 before reaching SR 56.
FDOT statistics from 2010 show that about 110,000 vehicles travel through the section where I-75 and I-275 come together. Of those, 22,000 use the SR 56 exit.
“If we can take half of those and let them exit before the interstates come together, that’s a big way to help traffic and reduce the risk of accidents,” McShaffrey said.
The new I-275 exit will also help reduce what McShaffrey calls “traffic weaving” from drivers having to merge from the far left to right lanes in order to exit to SR 56.
“That occurs where northbound mainline I-75 traffic, northbound traffic entering from I-275 and traffic exiting to SR 56 all merge,” McShaffrey said. “Right now, there is a short distance where drivers in this area have to change lanes to get into the correct lanes for their intended travel route. The new ramps will eliminate this crossover area by removing traffic exiting to SR 56 from the mix. That will leave just the merge from I-275 onto I-75, with none of this traffic also trying to exit to SR 56 in the same location.”
McShaffrey added the job was done in preparation for more growth in Wesley Chapel and surrounding communities. The most recent U.S. Census data shows Wesley Chapel has nearly 45,000 residents compared to just 8,936 in 2000.
“It’s been on our radar to do this project for a while now,” McShaffrey said. “The growth has continued and the department is projecting more growth in the coming years.”
FDOT is widening both interstates by one lane in each direction all the way to the Hernando County line in the north. McShaffrey said that is also in response to the population increase.
McShaffrey said the improved SR 56 exit from I-75 will be completed Aug. 16 as well. The entire project is set for completion in March 2012, but McShaffrey said it should be completed before the end of the year. The entire job comes with a $29.9 million price tag.
For more information on FDOT projects, visit www.dot.state.fl.us.
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